Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1986 – 1995)[1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

There are two previous posts on the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW). For your convenience I have listed the posts below:
The Australian Tapestry Workshop
The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1976 – 1985)
The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1996 - 2004)

The Australian Tapestry Workshop, which was formerly known as the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, was founded in 1976. The ATW continues to enjoy an international reputation as a leader in contemporary tapestries. It is the only workshop of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful in the world that is specifically geared for the production of hand-woven tapestries. It has introduced national and international artists to how this traditional medium can be used in an innovative, contemporary and unconventional manner.

A workroom at ATW.

Using the same techniques that were employed in Europe since the 15th century, the ATW's skilled weavers collaborate with artists from Australia and overseas to produce tapestries that are known for their vibrancy, technical accomplishment and inventive interpretation.

Merill Dumbrell working on John Olson’s tapestry – Rising Suns over Australia Felix.

Since its inception, the ATW's philosophy has been to employ weavers that have all trained as artists in order to enable a closer collaboration with the artists whose work they are interpreting. Many notable Australian and international artists have collaborated with the ATW's weavers over the years including Arthur Boyd, Jon Cattapan, John Olsen, John Coburn, Jorn Utzon, David Noonan and Sally Smart.

Weavers beginning on John Coburn’s tapestry – All That Jazz.

To date, ATW has created more than 400 tapestries ranging in size from palm-size to monumental. They are woven using the finest Australian wool, specially selected and spun for tapestry, which is dyed on-site forming a unique palette of 370 colors. The completed tapestries hang in significant public and private collections around the world. ATW is one of Australia's largest producers of public art, and every year, millions of people see ATW tapestries in a host of different environments from galleries to museums to corporate or government building entrances etc.

Weavers unroll - Sun Tapestry – after it has been cut-off from the loom.

Artists’ Tapestries from ATW – 1986 to 1995
Below is a select number of tapestries created via the collaboration between artists and ATW's weavers over the decade from 1986 to 1995.

Tapestry: Fly
Janenne Eaton is a Melbourne based artist. Her practice incorporates painting, photography, installation and video. Her works have been exhibited extensively in national and international museums and commercial galleries. For example, Janenne's work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), the National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Modern Art (at Heide) and in the National Portrait Gallery (Canberra). In 1986 she collaborated with ATW to create a tapestry for the National Australia Bank.

Fly (1986).
Designer: Janenne Eaton.
Interpretation: Georges Mora.
Weaving: Robyn Daw, Meryn Jones.
Size: 1.83 x 2.40 m.

Tapestry: Paradise Garden
Colin Lanceley was born in 1938 in Dunedin (New Zealand). In 1939 his family moved to Australia. In 1956 he began a Diploma at the East Sydney Technical School. After graduating in 1960, Lanceley formed the Imitation Realist Group together Michael Brown and Ross Crothall. In 1987 he collaborated again with the ATW to produce "Paradise Garden".

Paradise Garden (1987).
Designer: Colin Lanceley.
Interpretation: Cresside Jolles.
Weaving: Cresside Jolles, Pam Joyce, Owen Hammond, Hannah Rother.
Size: 2.31 x 3.38 m.

Tapestry: Cool
Michael Johnson was born in Sydney in 1938, and trained at the National Arts School (Sydney), where in 1959 he received a Diploma in Art. Johnson lived in London from 1960 to 1967 and moved to the USA in 1969, exhibiting in both countries as well as in Australia during that time. Johnson’s interest in the richness of nomadic rugs contributed to his feeling for tapestry as an artistic medium. In 1988 he collaborated with ATW to produce two tapestries - Warm and Cool – for the Commercial Union building in Melbourne (Australia).

Cool (1988).
Designer: Michael Johnson.
Interpretation: Sara Lindsay.
Weaving: Robyn Daw, Anne Kemp, Sonja Hansen, Jennifer Sharp.
Size: 2.13 x 2.44 m.

Tapestry: Aotea Tapestry
Robert Ellis was born in England in 1929 and then later moved to New Zealand, where he held his first solo exhibition in 1959. Ellis’ work is represented in many major public collections within New Zealand and internationally, including the Centre for Contemporary Art (Hamilton, New Zealand) etc. Ellis worked with ATW to design - Aotea Tapestry. It was commissioned to hang in the Aotea Centre, Auckland (New Zealand).

Aotea Tapestry (1989).
Designer: Robert Ellis.
Interpretation: Irene Creedon.
Weaving: Irene Creedon, Irja West, Merethe Tingstad, Anne Kemp, Chris Cochius, Iain Young, Merryn Jones, Barbara Mauro.
Size: 11.5 x 6.4 m.

Tapestry: The Harbour
Mary Macqueen (1912 – 1994) was born in Carlton (Victoria, Australia) and first exhibited her work at the Victorian Artists’ Society Annual Exhibition in 1943. By the early 1970s, Macqueen’s career as an artist was in full flower and she was a recipient of numerous awards and prizes in this period. In the mid-1980s Macqueen’s delicate water-color designs won her commissions to design a suite of tapestries entitled "Pavillion". In 1990 she collaborated with ATW to design a tapestry depicting Sydney habour for a private client. The tapestry is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia).

The Harbour (1990).
Designer: Mary Macqueen.
Interpretation: Chris Cochius.
Weaving: Chris Cochius, Tim Gresham.
Size: 1.70 x 2.38 m.

Tapestry: Creative Landscape - Darkness and Light
William Robinson was born in 1936 and currently lives in Kingscliff, NSW (Australia). His painted portraits and landscapes, which often utilize cool tones and a slightly distorted perspective, have been exhibited in Australia and internationally. He has twice been awarded one of the most prestigious art prizes in Australia for portraits – The Archibald Prize. Robinson worked with ATW on a tapestry entitled – Creative Landscape: Darkness and Light – which is in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW (Australia).

Creative Landscape: Darkness and Light (1991).
Designer: William Robinson.
Interpretation: Andrea May.
Weaving: Grazyna Bleja, Tim Gresham, Hannah Rother.
Size: 2.30 x 3.00 m.

Tapestry: Terra Australia
Martin Sharp is one of Australia's best-known artists. He was born in Sydney in 1942 and in the 1960s collaborated with Richard Neville, Richard Walsh and fellow artist Gary Shead on the magazine “Oz”, which attained legendary status in Australia and then later in England. His artwork often contains motifs that are very reminiscent of POP Art. Sharp has collaborated with the ATW on a number of projects. He designed "Terra Australis" for the Australian High Commission in London.

Terra Australis (1992).
Designer: Martin Sharp.
Interpretation and weaving: Iain Young.
Size: 1.28 x 2.50 m.

Tapestry: Awelye No. 1
Gloria Petyarre was born ca. 1945 and lives and works at Mosquito Bore in the Northern Territory (Australia). She was a leading member of the renowned Utopia art group and began working in batik before transferring to painting. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. ATW commissioned to design a pair of tapestries – Awelye I and Awelye II. They have been exhibited in many international galleries and museums as part of touring exhibitions.

Awelye No. 1 (1993).
Designer: Gloria Petyarre.
Interpretation and Weaving: Irja West, Claudia Lo Priore, Grazyna Bleja.
Size: 2.00 x 2.75 m.

Tapestry: Elephant Gingham
Geoffrey Ricardo was born in 1964 in Melbourne (Australia) and received a BA in printmaking at Chrisholm Institute of Technology in 1986. He began working as a printmakers’ assistant and lectured printmaking at Monsh University (Melbourne). His color and monotone etchings have been exhibited in numerous exhibitions. Animals play an important role in his etchings and frequently appear transformed with elements of artificial symbolism as in Elephant Gingham(1994) - a tapestry woven by ATW.

Elephant Gingham (1994).
Designer: Geoffrey Ricardo.
Interpretation: Irja West.
Weaving: Irja West, Claudia Lo Priore.
Size: 1.65 x 2.00 m.

Tapestry: Suburbanology
Dean Bowen was born in Maryborough (Victoria, Australia) in 1957. He undertook a Diploma of Fine Art from 1974 to 1976 at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Melbourne) specializing in printmaking. His work, which includes prints and small-scale metal sculpture, has since been shown in Australia and internationally. In 1995 Dean Bowen won the commission to design a tapestry to be woven by ATW for the Melbourne Town Hall. The tapestry – Suburbanology – was the outcome of a detailed collaborative process between the artist and weavers and is now on public display in the Town Hall precinct.

Suburbanology (1995).
Designer: Dean Bowen.
Interpretation: Merrill Dumbrell.
Weaving: Merrill Dumbrell, Lisa Stebbing, Rebecca Moulton.
Size: 2.50 x 5.00 m.

[1] S. Walker (editor), Modern Australian Tapestries From the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (now known as ATW), The Beagle Press.

1 comment:

Lesley Turner said...

Thanks for sharing your research on an important art form.