Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Day in Manchester

As part of my research, I am trying to go and see as many tapestries as I can, within financial reason. Tapestries are notoriously difficult to photograph: the textures of the weaving don't show up or the colours are distorted. There is nothing like seeing a tapestry in the flesh. So much work and time goes into weaving that I can spend ages in front of a tapestry examining the shapes and marks made by the weaver.

It was certainly worth going all the way to Manchester to see the Whitworth Tapestry, designed by Eduardo Paolozzi and woven in 1967/8 at Dovecot.
Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester
The Whitworth Art Gallery, run by Manchester University, is home to an expansive collection of modern and historic paintings, sculpture, prints, textiles and a unique collection of wallpapers.The historic part of the building, which you can see above, is mainly home to the collections and the galleries occupy a modern extension built in the 1960s.

There was time to look at the galleries before going to see the tapestry. The textile gallery, exhibiting a selection of the permanent collection, was fascinating and showed both historic and contemporary works side by side. A favourite was Jennifer Vicker's Yesterday's News, a quilt made from newspapers and Judith Duffy's Sheep in Wolf's Clothing, a knitted piece which plays on the saying 'a wolf in sheep's clothing'.

There were two exhibitions running on the ground floor: 'Unstable States: John Ruskin and the Truth of Water' and 'The Land Between Us'. The Land Between Us was an exhibition featuring both contemporary and older landscapes, in a variety of mediums, displayed alongside each other. The exhibition obviously had bold intentions, exhibiting works together, which would not normally occupy the same gallery space. However the lack of labelling on many of the objects was furstrating and many of the pictures did not hold their own in the roomy gallery. That being said, the exhibition was was worth going to see, if only to experience Olafur Eliasson's installation, The Forked Forest Path.
The Forked Forest Path, Olafur Eliasson
When we eventually went up to see the tapestry, I was staggered by the vibrancy of the colours used in the tapestry. I was fortunate to be able to look at Paolozzi's original collaged design alongside the tapestry. His collage looks like two images, put together. One uses bright colours whereas the other is more sugary in tone. It is clear that the colours used in the tapestry have been subtly changed which results in a more cohesive composition with a bolder colour palette.
Whitworth Tapestry (detail), designed by Eduardo Paolozzi, woven by Archie Brennan, Douglas Grierson, Fiona Mathison and Harry Wright at Dovecot Studios. Whitworth Art Gallery Collection.

To mimic the finely dotted areas of Paolozzi's design, the weavers have chosen a time-consuming method of alternating between pink and white yarn on every horizontal warp. This technique proves to be very effective and must have taken a considerable amount of patience!

The tapestry's 'object file' in the collection has a wealth of correspondance, not only about the tapestry's design and weaving, but also referring to the grants applied for to cover the cost of the tapestry. Such archival information is so invaluable and often gives an artwork an added dimension.

Whilst in Manchester I also had the opportunity to whizz into the Manchester Art Gallery where I saw one of the most amusing pieces of furniture I think I have ever seen. Click here to see Scrub Together by Jason Taylor.

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