Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Elizabeth Blackadder

This summer a major retrospective of the work of Elizabeth Blackadder will be shown at the National Galleries of Scotland (information here). Dovecot has collaborated with Blackadder on over 30 tapestries spanning 5 centuries; such a productive relationship has come about predominantly due to the level of freedom granted by Blackadder when it comes to the interpretation of her designs. The length of the studio's relationship with such a renowned artist means that the tapestries have witnessed a huge part of Dovecot's history, from the directorship of Archie Brennan, to the workshop's new home in Infirmary Street Baths.

Scale has changed according to commission. One of the largest tapestries woven was in 2004 for the P&O Cruise ship, Arcadia. East West Still Life was over 2m in length and 75cm tall. The design was a collage of painted elements, which Blackadder moved around the composition with weaver Douglas Grierson until a final, coherent design was achieved. The light colour palette of the tapestry is well-suited to a cruise ship and the different textures within the design give the viewer the opportunity to witness the weavers' dexterous handling of colour.
The delicacy of Blackadder's floral painting has also been used to great effect in miniature tapestries: finely woven with precise detailing.

For me, the exhibition in August in the RSA galleries on the Mound will be another opportunity to view one of Blackadder's first tapestries, woven for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1967/8. This abstract design is full of clever and extremely challenging pieces of weaving, created by weaver Maureen Hodge. The tapestry is a reflection of the three-dimensional tools which Hodge applied, and still does apply, to her own work outside the studio. Double-weaving, extra warps and diagonal lines make the tapestry well worth seeing, and I would recommend everyone to do so when it is on display.

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