Thursday, 8 April 2010

V&A textile archives

I loved being in the V&A.  Since I was last there, there has been alot of building and re-development.  The spaces felt fresher and more comtemporary, areas led more freely into each other.  Stay a while, wandering from one area of design specialism, or arts from a specific geographical area, and you start to get overwhelmed.  So much beauty, so much intense learning passed from generation to generation.  So many millions of hours creating so much finery.  And I love that about humanity.  Okay, we're about to screw it all up and fry but look what we've achieved!  There is an inate human instinct to beautify, and when I visit the V&A and see treasures of art and design dating back to antiquity, I feel alive and justified in pursuing an artist's life.

On this visit, and for the first time, I visited the textile archives.  Antique cabinets are filled with wooden frames containing fragments of cloth from all history.  There are the most detailed pieces of tapestry, embroidery, jacquards, brocades, lace and prints, all accessible to study up close.  The archive rooms are so quiet and tucked away.  The cataloguing is so reverential of the textile creators whose sweat, blood and tears went into the production of cloth.  And so irreverent.....who had the job of taking scissors to cloth to display a section?

With my interest in tapestry weaving, it was a pleasure to see The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries.  I'm normally quite dismissive of these large scale historical tapestries, faded depictions of the nobility out hunting.  These were so fresh though, and instead of looking like paintings, were so full of pattern and colour.  I was amazed to see they were woven in the mid fifteenth century, their style and patterning seemed far more contemporary.  I kept isolating sections that I wanted to abstract from and render in miniature.....I don't think I'll ever be weaving a wall sized tapestry,  each of The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries was ten years on the loom.

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