Friday, 14 January 2011

'Collaboration' - a contemporary buzz word

My enthusiasm for Harold Cohen has continued to grow since beginning my PhD. As I mentioned in an earlier post, his on going relationship and openness about the experience of working with Dovecot provides a lot information from which to leap into further analysis. 'Collaboration' and 'Inter-disciplinary' are the buzz words of the moment and seem to be taken as contemporary ideas, but the work done by Cohen in collaboration with the studio illustrates that these approaches to art were being undertaken many decades previously.

Untitled 29s (c.1963), Harold Cohen, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, installed in 'Tapestry Revealed: Harold Cohen' exhibition at Dovecot, courtesy of Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
In tapestry's history, there has been an on-going relationship between artist designers and weavers. The Raphael Sistine Chapel tapestries exhibited at the V&A last year are testament to that. But when I use the term 'collaboration' I am referring to a process in which the interchange of ideas takes place on a more personal level, often face to face. Working together requires the coming together of different personalities and often their project's success is defined by their compatability as colleagues. This could be that they have different ideas which compliment each other. Or that they have shared ideas about visual communication and what they want to pass on to the viewer.

In the case of Dovecot and Harold Cohen it was the relationship between Cohen and Archie Brennan (then Artistic Director) in the 1960s which kick-started their work. I'm currently exploring this further in a paper, taking into consideration the two different periods in which Cohen designed for Dovecot, the changes in Cohen's working practices and the nature of the tapestries which were produced.

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