The Kettle work is quite impressive for its scale and how it works where it hangs. It is not easy to see it in full, you kind of have to peer from above slightly when you view from the library, or you see it from the other end of the work, from the café area. Otherwise you walk past it, as it hangs on the wall, almost as a piece of wall covering/’wall paper’, and you then only see if very close up as you walk down a ramp.There are three samples for people to touch on a small panel nearby, variously of the courser sewn stitch type, a sample of what looks more like a piece sewn from a digital rendering of more graphic work and a third in a finer stitch type. There is a small text panel to describe how and when she made it, and place it in context. Although there is a suggestion that the work was partly a community-based project, where people could come and see her work on it, and there were also suggestions that some contribution had been made by others, but this was not elaborated on.
While I was in the café/shop area, I also looked quickly at cards, and got quite excited to see some very fine cards drawn by Michael Hearld. I had seen his book on Amazon, but here was a children’s book about nature that was extremely beautiful and charming. I went straight home and looked up his books in general, and then found a short video on his work on Youtube: Mark Hearld - An Introduction.But I digress, the point of the visit was of course also Grayson Perry and the Walthamstow Tapestry. I watched his taste programmes on 4OD (In the best possible Taste) earlier this year, and listened to his Reithlectures. He is witty, insightful and has interesting ideas, so seeing a tapestry of his on important contemporary social issues is a treat. I had to smile and snigger occasionally at some of the juxtapositions of brand names against the small vignettes that make up a large part of the piece, it is quite funny in places. He plays with scale and has covered the whole thing in small images of people and animals, with the seven ages of man as the large thematic illustrations running from left to right down the length of the tapestry. He designed the piece for digital construction on a jacquard loom.
Purist tapestry weavers may disagree that it is not a tapestry, but he is not interested in that craft-art debate necessarily, and is more interested in social commentary and the effect it has in woven textile. In a video interview shown in support of the display he did refer fleetingly to historical tapestries and their connotations of luxury, but I read his textile work more as a means for him to narrate and talk about themes to a large audience, in groups, raising discussion, if needed (I think his pots are good as well, but they are subtle and difficult to decipher immediately, whereas large colourful textiles pass on their messages in an immediate sort of way).
A couple of days later.....
It ended up being a very good day, with interesting things to see and think about, and I continue to carry some of those ideas with me still, a few days later.