Canberra: Tapestry 2008

My sojourn in Australia was the result of two invitations to take up Visiting Fellowships in Canberra and Melbourne. In April and May The Australian National University in Canberra hosted major International Exhibitions and Symposium: Tapestry 2008. Canberra School of Art building Canberra School of Art building. This event “brought together practitioners, educators, students, collectors, critics, theorists and historians from around the world for exchange of ideas, interaction, practical learning, exposure to new works and informed debate.” It built upon the momentum of a similar event held in Melbourne twenty years earlier and, like then, it was excellent. Nine diverse artists were invited to exhibit in The University’s School of Art Gallery. The Fine Art of Tapestry Weaving explored “relationships between fine art, tapestry and weaving”. Download the catalogue (PDF file 1Mb). The Art Gallery • Archie Brennan: USA • Yasuko Fujino: Japan • Aino Kajaniemi: Finland • Jane Kidd: Canada • Sue Lawty: England • Sara Lindsay: Australia • Susan Martin-Maffei: USA • Susan Mowatt: Scotland • Fiona Rutherford: England The open, expansive space of the Art Gallery (above) seen here with Jane Kidd’s three tapestries from her Possession Series in the foreground; Susan Mowatt’s grouping comprising tapestry, drawing and collage in the middle distance and in the minutest far distance, four lead studies of mine. Archie Brennan, 'Seated Nudes'; Exhibition opening; Susan Martin-Maffei, 'The Card Players' Strong, graphic form epitomises the crisp, perfectly flat woven tapestries of Archie Brennan; seen in the exhibition (above left) in three from his Seated Nude series. The opening (above centre) with A B, Katie Hutchinson and Susan Martin-Maffei. Susan’s tapestries (above right) are sharply observed and executed compositions of familiar situations: here The Card Players from her Sports series. At the Symposium, Susan gave a fascinating presentation on Pre- Columbian /Andean tapestry and both she and Archie ran a very successful 3 day workshop exploring how the associated techniques influence structure and image. Regretfully, I was unable to make the workshop, but have been sent some great diagrams for the Four Selvedge technique, something I’ve long wanted to explore. These are also available from their website. The opening and Floor Talks Meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends – large crowds, buzz and excitement: the Opening and Floor Talks (above). Yasuko Fujino, 'Harmas de J.H. Fabre' (detail); relaxing after the event; Fiona Rutherford, 'In Conversation' and 'Past Present' (with detail) Yasuko Fujino showed one huge 2 x 4 m tapestry ‘Harmas de J. H. Fabre’. Operatic in scale and composition, the vibrant painterly swathes of colour hold detailed images of insects and flowers (detail above left). During the floor talk and her symposium presentation, Yasuko (from Japan) riveted us with humility and humour… in perfect broken English. Colour is also central in providing the emotional impact in Fiona Rutherford’s tapestries, ‘In Conversation’ and ‘Past Present’ (above right). In her talk she also discussed how both traditional and contemporary Japanese clothing have been an important source of inspiration for her designs. Relaxing after the event (above centre). From l to r: Linda Wallace (American Tapestry Alliance), Jane Kidd, Fiona Rutherford, Yasuko Fujino, Bev Thomas, Belinda Jessup, Katie Hutchinson. Do check out the Tapestry 2008 Blog Belinda is running with ongoing contributions and images. Aino Kajaniemi, 'Memoire' Aino Kajaniemi from Finland also spoke with feeling in English. In her workshop students explored free drawing with the weave – elements very evident in her own monochromatic work ‘Memoire’, 144 x 242 cms (above). She says, “subjects of my work usually originate from the innermost heart of a human being; sorrow, joy, uncertainty, guilt, tenderness, memories and so forth. I am interested in the symbolism of pictures, in ancient messages hidden in pictures.” Susan Mowatt, 'Single Concrete' and 'Crossing Boundaries'; Susan Mowatt, Fiona Rutherford, Kristin Saeterdal, Sue Lawty Three artists exhibited non-figurative work. Susan Mowatt showed a number of small, finely constructed tapestries, often with a muted colour palette as in ‘Single Concrete’ (above left) and ‘Crossing Boundaries’ (above centre).She has also developed a fascinating response to developing ideas amidst a life full of young children and teaching ‐ see thumbnail below. In the Symposium, Susan gave a highly intelligent and entertaining presentation about tapestry within the context of 21st Century / Edinburgh College of Art. Enjoying time out in Canberra (above right) with Susan, Fiona and Kristin Saeterdal (Norway). Sara Lindsay, 'Cinnamon and Roses' (detail) Sara Lindsay exhibited sizeable, quiet tapestries and paper works: a contemplative response to personal connections with Sri Lanka. Cinnamon and Roses (detail above left), in which she has used cinnamon sticks and dyed the weft with tea, references her grandmother. (above right) With Sara, Valerie Kirk (Artist, Head of Textiles, ANU and Tapestry 2008 curator) and Kay Lawrence (Artist and Head of School, South Australian School of Art, UniSA). Valerie and her team worked non stop and with such patience and good humour, to ensure we all enjoyed a terrific world tapestry event. Thank you all. Celebration Dinner at University House, Canberra; Archie Brennan speaking at Celebration Dinner; Sue Lawty, Susan Mowatt, Andrzej Banachowicz Thank you too, to the many artists who inspired us by delivering such engaging presentations not in their own tongue. Andrzej Banachowicz from Poland (above right) sorted it by making a short film with an English narration – very good. The end of the Symposium and Exhibitions were marked by a sumptuous celebratory dinner held in grand, candlelit surroundings at University House (above left). Archie Brennan gave the after dinner speech (above centre) closely followed – unknown to him – by tribute speeches acknowledging his fifty years of considerable contribution to world tapestry. Example of silk tapestry from Laos (detail) - Click to enlarge Jo Keyhaian, tapestry (detail) - Click to enlarge Susan Mowatt, 'Grey Blob' (detail) - Click to enlarge Yasuko Fujino, woven tapestry insect wings (detail) - Click to enlarge Yasuko Fujino, 'Harmas de J.H. Fabre' (detail) - Click to enlarge Valerie Kirk, tapestry (detail) - Click to enlarge Click thumbnails for larger versions and further details.

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