I have been very lucky and feel very privileged to have attended the private view of Art Textiles at The Whitworth in Manchester tonight. An important and fantastic new exhibition that raises the relevance of textiles as an art medium.
Manchester feels like a particularly poignant and symbolic place to host such an exhibition, as a city with a strong textile history. The Whitworth itself is also a fantastically appropriate space, it has a long history of collecting textiles, that began with two tapestry panels by Edward Burne Jones and William Morris in 1889.
When I first discovered this exhibition I had been having a conversation about my frustrations with textiles generally not being taken particularly seriously as an art form. This changed everything. There have been many other important exhibitions such as Cloth and Memory at Salts Mill and Lost in Lace in Birmingham and this new exhibition strengthens the growing acceptance of textile techniques as an art form.
The importance of cloth as a metaphor makes it such an exciting medium to use. The examples within Art Textiles explore many different subjects from cultural aspects, personal identity, feminism as well as memory and loss. Bringing together so many important pieces of work to represent these.
There were several highlights for me:
Magdalena Abakanowicz – I have wanted to see one of the pieces from the Abakan series for such a long time.
Ann Wilson – Just amazing and so moving. Meticulously created but with a rawness that speaks to me of bodily damage.
Beverly Ayling-Smith – Another powerful and moving work. Beverly’s work continues to explore the rawness of mourning with ideas of continual repair. I was also pleased to have been able to meet Beverly at the exhibition.
Tracy Emin – It is always great to see work by Tracy Emin, I never tire of her wonderful embroidered sheets and blankets.
Art textiles is on at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester from 10th October – 31st January 2016