If I had to choose a favourite tapestry in the current Dovecot exhibition it would have to be Sky Cathedral II (1974) designed by Lousie Nevelson and woven by Gordon Brennan, Fiona Mathison, Neil McDonald and Jean Taylor.
This tapestry took me completely by surprise. Before seeing the exhibition, I would have chosen Claire Barclay's quick, slow (2010) or Overall (1967) designed by Harold Cohen. I had only ever seen images of Sky Cathedral II and though keen on Nevelson's work the pictures of the tapestries she designed weren't really doing it for me. I think the nature of my encounter with it in the gallery had a big impact. Before reaching it in the exhibition, you come across an altarpiece designed by Joyce Conwy Evans. It is dazzling full of rich gold and bronze and bejewelled with embroidery. As you walk past it and round a corner you are suddenly met by the cooler, enveloping Nevelson.
Photos rarely do a tapestry justice (the ones above certainly don't). They can't convey the deep vibrating blue yarn contrasted with the technically complex pale areas of weaving. This is a tapestry outstanding not only in its design and conception, but in its execution. The sense of texture, a reference to the three dimensional quality of the maquette on which the design was based, is achieved through a variety of techniques which are captivating in their delicate detail.
It is captivating.
Details from Sky Cathedral (1982), Lousie Nevelson, Smithsonian Collection, Washington DC