I recently saw an exhibition at Tate Modern, in London (organised by Tate Modern and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf), of the work of Anni Albers (1899-1994). Anni was an innovative and influential weaver who was born in Germany and trained at the Bauhaus Art School.
Many of Anni’s woven pieces ‘read’ like paintings. See, for example the piece made in 1926, which has been used to publicise the exhibition.
Anni’s loom was included in the exhibition, right at the start. It is such a striking piece of equipment; the ‘tool of my trade’ (my sewing machine) seems so small in comparison. There is nothing like looking at a fully threaded loom to drive home the reality of the slow, line by line growth of a hand-woven cloth.
This was a multi-sensory exhibition, because as well as the loom itself and many woven pieces from a lifetime’s weaving, there was a film-loop showing hand-weaving in action (with the sound of the loom at work). There was also a highly tactile area where bunches (the size of horses’ tails) were hanging, of different fibres used in weaving. Visitors were encouraged to touch and run their fingers through cotton, wool and so on. I loved this idea.
As for the exhibition itself, there were two high points for me. Set aside in a ‘room’ of their own, were a series of six Torah covers, woven in black, grey and metallic threads. Each was subtly different from the others and they were all beautiful, shimmering against the wall. She said of the work ‘I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.’
The other high point was a small semi-abstract landscape in ‘hot’ colours of red, pink and orange. Perhaps this appeals to me particularly as a quilter, as the rectangles of colour produce something of a quilt-like effect. It was called ‘South of the Border’, made in 1958, appearing in the exhibition courtesy of The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Fund and Contemporary Arts Fund.
If you are an artist/maker – especially if you work with textiles, I commend to you the excellent ‘life-hacks’ compiled by Tate Modern on their website, from words written by Anni Albers, who was for much of her life a teacher as well as a practitioner. You can find them here.
The exhibition ends on 27 January 2019.
What advice would you give to textile artists?
My ‘Ski Chalet’ fabric on Spoonflower seems appropriate for this time of year (on this side of the globe, anyway). You can find it here.
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