September 26 to October 28, 1990
This exhibition was assembled by the Cartwright Gallery/Canadian Craft Museum on Granville Island in Vancouver. It features recent art by Barbara Heller, Alison Keenan, Anthea Mallinson, and Kaija Tyni-Rautiainen. All four artists work in a representational style which is traditional to the centuries-old weaving techniques, yet all have contemporary artistic viewpoints.
Tapestry is one of the world’s oldest art techniques for storytelling. Though tapestries in the Middle Ages may have helped to insulate a castle’s drafty walls, they also told stories. Biblical parables, mythological adventures and historical epics were memorably depicted in the warp and weft threads. At its height, tapestry flourished in workshops throughout Europe. Even today, tapestries must be woven by hand; no machine has been invested which can make the constant creative decisions needed in the weaving of every tapestry.
Contemporary tapestries may be abstract in design, reflecting twentieth-century styles in painting and other graphic arts, or they may follow age-old figurative and narrative traditions. This exhibition examines the enduring use of realistic imagery to evoke stories or depict the landscape and the human figure. Today, however, it is not castle walls that tapestries warm. More often they warm the austere boardrooms of corporate kings or the less palatial living rooms of private homes.
These four artists have developed individual styles through which to exploit the pictorial possibilities of tapestry. Barbara Heller renders the subtle coloration of ancient stone walls, inviting the viewer to see abstractions of light and colour in this semblance of texture. Wraith-like human figures from times gone buy appear in some of her rich compositions.
Alison Keenan examines the interaction of man and the natural environment of British Columbia, combining her knowledge of the visually rich native tradition with her sense of the renewed vitality of that tradition to create compositions which unite past and present. Her slice-of-life views of tribal natives reveal her use of photographs of her compositions.
Anthea Mallinson’s response to British Columbia’s west coast combined with her feeling for the Japanese kimono is the inspiration for her tapestries. She uses the draped form to explore her sense of the obvious and the hidden in human life. She also works from photographs using cropped images to prepare her cartoons.
Kaija Tyni-Rautiainen’s tapestries portray the richness of the deep forests of British Columbia. Her subtle use of dolour in light and shadow, sometimes in vigorous texture, expresses her sense of the analogy between nature and human nature. Tyni-Rautiainen shows a reverence for the forests of Western Canada, meticulously blending colour to duplicate their richness.
Llyod E. Herman, director (consulting), Cartwright Gallery/Canadian Craft Museum
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