Is every artwork some version of a self-portrait? Many artists throughout history have pondered this philosophical question, some making their works more explicitly biographical than others (think Tracey Emin’s stitched tent, for example). One contemporary artist who follows this self-portrait logic is tapestry weaver Cos Ahmet – one of 32 textile artists who will be exhibiting as part of Heallreaf 2; an international exhibition of woven tapestry opening its second installation at The Brick Lane Gallery in London this June.
Cos views each of his artworks as total reflections of himself. ‘Many of my recurring themes,’ he explains, ‘concern self, identity and sexuality – the sole thread of inspiration is the body.’ Like many of the artists accompanying him in this exhibition, he draws on many other art forms for inspiration, using improvised sculpture and printmaking alongside the traditional techniques of tapestry weaving that he’s so well attuned to.
Having recently finished the first part of the exhibition at West Dean College in West Sussex, Heallreaf is a unique organisation dedicated to the future of tapestry weaving, supporting contemporary tapestry practices by offering funding prizes and giving a platform to makers who might otherwise find it difficult to continue their work. For many artists, it’s made a great deal of difference.
With their upcoming exhibition at The Brick Lane Gallery, Heallreaf are making it easier to see the most interesting tapestry weavers from across the globe including pieces from the UK, Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and North America. With over 30 pieces on show, there is bound to be an eclectic mix of voices each telling their own distinctive story. How much of the artist is reflected in each piece however, remains up for debate.