"The third Thursday in January is considered to be the most depressing day of the year. The excitement and light associated with Christmas, New Year, Diwali, and Hanukkah has dimmed and spring seems a long way off. Spirits can be low and the body tense with cold.
This issue we think about textiles created to comfort the soul, as well as the body. Historically, tapestries were hung on castle walls to counteract the cold and to bring colour and light to dark and drafty interiors.
This tradition has been sustained across the millennia with peaks and troughs of popularity.
One such peak occurred in mid 20th century Europe, from the municipal tapestries commissioned by the Government in the newly communist Poland to those designed by the Benedictine monk Dom Robert and woven in Aubusson in the South of France. This flowering of tapestry laid the foundations for a quiet revolution, which took place at The International Centre of Ancient and Modern Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland. Here, artists from across the globe met and exchanged ideas and brought new expression to this ancient art form. Tapestry moved off the wall and into the gallery, sewing the seeds of the installation art movement.
With important exhibitions celebrating the work of pioneers Magdalena Abakanowicz in London and The Fabric of Modernity: Matisse, Picasso, Miró…and French Tapestries at the Kunsthalle in Munich in the coming months, we certainly have much to look forward to in the spring.
After enjoying Tracy Chevalier’s novel A Single Thread (see the Selvedge Social on 26th February) and learning of the pioneering work of Louisa Pesel (who is also the subject of an exhibition in February), I have been drawn to textiles inspired by religious motives - an area I have previously overlooked. To my delight, I have found a treasure trove, from rich tapestries to the glorious chasubles designed by Matisse for the Dominican Chapel of the Rosary at Vence, and the sumptuous work of the Broderers of St Paul’s Cathedral.
We will look at colour, repair and visit the Nordic region in future issues, but, for now, light an open fire, pull up a chair and enjoy a good read."