Richard Tuttle – study visit

I was excited to be going to visit the Richard Tuttle exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery. I knew very little about him or his work but I was intrigued by what I had seen.

I did a little bit of research before I went. I found a lot of imagery that had intrigued  me but I didn’t get a sense of where his work was coming from or what the thoughts or meanings were that he was trying to convey. Going as part of a study visit was really important, it gave me the opportunity to discuss thoughts  get others opinions and ideas. This helped to formulate a more rounded idea of the work.

Richard Tuttle’s work seems to be predominantly concerned with control and breaking that control, a juxtaposition between the two states.

In the first room, a piece that particularly stood out for me was this one. I cannot find a reference to the title and am kicking myself for not noting it down. However for me this piece resonated with me. The hard wooden container that controls the contents, with straight lines and hard edges. Soft fabric that has been stitched showing the adaptability of fabric. A contradiction. Conformity and control juxtaposed with the fluid freedom of fabric.

Other pieces within the exhibition that I loved were his fabric pieces in gallery 8. His shibori pieces again seem to reference control with straight edges and uniform positioning of the eyelets for hanging, against the bleeding colour within the fabric.

This was a challenging exhibition there are pieces that have a voice and clarity that draw you in but there are also moments of absolute confusion. For me the text supplied with each piece added to my confusion the poetic nature of the wording added another level  that needed deciphering rather than an aid to understanding.

After the Whitechapel we made the short journey to Tate Modern to visit his large scale commission within the Turbine Hall.


Here my first impression was that it felt as if it had been produced at scale purely to fill the space and didn’t engage me initially. But with a group discussion we did come up with some interesting thoughts. The use of fabric as flesh on the wooden skeletal frame. A sense of destruction, machinery that no longer works, potential that is not resolved. These ideas did help to engage us as a group gave us a good grounding in his ideas.

For me a lot of Richard Tuttle’s work is not initially engaging and does require significant input on behalf of the viewer. That is not to say that work needs to be immediately beautiful but does need to visually engage to promote further research. His work with the ambiguous titles and descriptions for me just added to further frustration and felt as if obstacles were being put in my way all of the time. But perhaps this is the point?



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