Celebrating its 175th year, the Scottish Gallery is exhibiting a beautiful selection of the work of three Scottish tapestry weavers. Jo Barker, Sara Brennan and Susan Mowatt all trained at Edinburgh College of Art, and share a conceptual, abstract style of contemporary weaving. However, each of the weavers brings her unique approach to colour, tone and medium, making for a fascinating exhibition.
Tapestry is ancient; weavings have been found dating back to the Hellenistic era. The word derives from the Old French ‘tapisserie’ and dates back to the Middle Ages, when tapestries became popular among European nobility as rich and portable forms of art. Like many traditional crafts, tapestry weaving was changed by the two world wars, when rationing limited the types and amounts of fibres that were available. Atypical materials began to be used in the 1950s, when there was a revival of the medium. Reflecting the aesthetics of the time, tapestries kept to more streamlined colour schemes and production was simplified. However, by the turn of the millennium, hand weaving was rarely offered as a textile course, as the textile world shifted focus to computerised equipment.
Some contemporary weavers have embraced the computer, bringing the traditional and the modern together in digitally designed tapestries. Jo Barker creates digital collages of her designs before beginning the hand-weaving process. The instant nature of this design process contrasts with the slow, sensual activity of tapestry weaving.
Sara Brennan tends to weave from her own drawings. Her tapestries are simple and pure responses to the meeting of colours. Susan Mowatt, on the other hand, likes to reflect upon the very act of weavings itself, and has given performances of her weaving process. She sees weavings as the “place where the past, present and future come together in one action”.
5 - 29 July 2017
The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ, UK