The conceptual underpinnings of Outsider Art are problematic. Who’s “in” and who’s “out” is just one of the questions no one has adequately defined. Your scribe is puzzling this conunudrum for multiple publications, so will say no more for now other that to present textile works from Wellcome Trust’s Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan on until 30 June 2013. More than 300 works in various media create a compelling object-led exhibition. DJ
Like the buses your scribe waits impatiently and then two dead kings come along at once. Archeologists confirmed last week the skeleton found in a hasty grave beneath a Leicester car park is that of Richard III. And this week? Stitchers in the Channel Island of Alderney completed their embroidered rendition of the “missing” terminus to the Bayeux Tapestry – the 11th century 70m long embroidery that reflects the victor’s view of events leading to the Battle of Hastings and the death of King Harold II.
There are parallels between Kings Harold II and Richard III. Each was considered a usurper. Harold was accused of taking the English throne from William, and Richard became King under a cloud when his royal nephews (who were ahead of Richard in the coronation queue) disappeared. Each King was killed in battle. Dead or dying, each received humiliation blows. Four knights “hewed”, “smote” and “pierced” Harold’s body until it was “despoiled of all signs of status”. The “limb” hacked from his body may have been his manhood. Richard III was bludgeoned while mortally wounded and got a sword thrust up the jacksie.
But humiliations for both Kings continued post-mortem. Contemporary propagandists (and Shakespeare a century later) recorded Richard as a misshapen murderer. And poor King Harold lives on as a propaganda pawn in the wool and linen Bayeux Tapestry commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half brother. Harold’s coronation became a buried lede in the middle of the tapestry, stripped of importance.
Theorists have long suggested the Bayeux Tapestry is incomplete. The Tapestry begins with the crowning of Edward the Confessor, and many suggest it was meant to end with the coronation of William on Christmas Day 1066. Were the panels lost? Destroyed? Or perhaps suggests your scribe, the 11th century English stitchers, tired after ten years of toil and taking umbrage at the final scenes of the foreign William crowned as King, downed tools? Perhaps. All that seems clear to your scribe is that now, with the embroidered panel of the Coronation of William complete, we’ve well and truly put the boot in Harold. DJ
Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions? Jared Diamond’s question is the title of Chapter 14 in his book Collapse. He posits four sequential steps to explain why societies mismanage resources and fail to thrive or survive. First they fail to anticipate the problem. Then they fail to perceive it. Failure to solve the problem is followed by failure to succeed. After that? Pfffft. Buh bye society.
Your scribe doesn’t know if Diamond’s theories underpin the cross-stitch series “Tapestry of Disaster, Immolation” by Australian artists Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy, but their apocalyptic scenes crafted in a common, routine stitch (to underscore the democratic nature of the problem?) might be sufficient to scare audiences into reducing their carbon footprint if not lobby governments to change course. One can hope.
Cordeiro & Healy describe their concept as “the creation of a kind of temporal bookend. We are acting out a rough symmetry to our experience of fossil fuels.” “Temporal bookend” is the way the artists describe comparing the short time it’s taken to deplete the earth’s finite fossil fuel resources compared to the millions of years it takes to create those fuels. Their cross-stitch fossil fuel explosions are “the distillation of a moment”.
Elaborating, they explain “through the medium of cross stitch we have taken this tiny moment of time and drawn it out over months”. They stitch “about eight square centimetres a day”, adding it’s “really impossible for the casual observer to look at the finished cross-stitch works and understand how insanely long it takes to make one.”
So where are we in Diamond’s scenario? Your scribe believes western societies have fallen into the crevasse between steps 3 and 4. Instead of figuring a way to use the ice axe to climb out, we instead are in a moment of uncertainty of choice. We dither. We deny. And we carry on as usual creating a vast tapestry of disaster. DJ
Chocolate is your scribe’s Achilles heel. Never ever ubiquitous cheap chocolate, but always luxury dark chocolate requiring a mindful journey to the byways of Chelsea and Artisan du Chocolat. Founded by artisan chocolatier Gerard Coleman (famous for his creation of liquid salted caramels), Artisan offer a range of handmade chocolates. They also understand it’s sinful to sling an exquisite gift into any old wrapping paper. Gifts should be beautifully and thoughtfully wrapped in a bespoke furoshiki. Artisan du Chocolat’s limited edition furoshiki is available only at the Chelsea branch. Designed by Zoe Beck, she was commissioned by Hugo Middleton, founder of Evergreen Wrap on behalf of Artisan.
Artisan du Chocolat “had quite specific ideas” for the furoshiki pattern says Beck, “a map detailing the journey their chocolate takes from source to production to shop”. Inspired by the British Library’s “Magnificent Maps” exhibition, Beck designed a world map featuring countries of origin and destination as well as “some of the key icons I felt represented them”, she says. The design is reminiscent of mid-twentieth century tourist maps and scarves featuring pictograms and shorthand visuals atop country cartography.
Ubiquitous in Japan, furoshiki are reusable textiles used to wrap gifts or to carry objects. Surface designs are traditional or contemporary, and different sizes can be folded and knotted to wrap for example, a bottle of wine, food for a picnic or to make a baby sling. The website of Kyoto Foodie features furoshiki shop Karakusaya. The post explains the history and includes multiple furoshiki video tutorials.
It isn’t just your scribe who loves exquisite chocolate. So too her COVER colleague LU who blogged about Pinaki Studios’ collaboration with Chocolatl. Do chocolate devotees like company of the like minded? Not in this instance. It means the box of chocolates gifted to your scribe by the lovely Anne Weyns, Director of Artisan du Chocolat, must be shared with COVER colleagues at the Christmas lunch next week. “Take one for the team!” your scribe hears her colleagues shouting. And so she will. DJ
“Is that a ah . . . a foot?!” Your meat-free scribe was still under the gustatory evil spell of mistaking chorizo for a grilled baby tomato, when a fur stole fell from a guest’s shoulder at the opening of the Anne Kyyrö Quinn exhibition last night. Swooping, your scribe caught it mid-fall. In her hand were paws and claws. Confirming these were mink feet, its eccentric owner turned to reveal two tiny mink heads locked at the nape of her neck. Fortunately, meat and minks only momentarily distracted your scribe from an evening celebrating Kyyrö Quinn’s gloriously sculptural wool felt acoustic walls, cushions and ottomans.
Hosted by the Embassy of Finland and Europe House, the exhibition continues until January 2013 at 12 Star Gallery on Smith Square (former Conservative Party HQ and near the Houses of Parliament). Gracing the interiors of corporate board rooms, private homes and the film sets of Prometheus and Sex and the City, Kyyrö Quinn’s 3-D patterned engineered acoustic wall panels are handmade of sustainable 100% wool felt. The panels achieve International Standards (ISO 354 and 11654), which make them perfect sound absorbers for hotels, lobbies, home cinemas, public lounges – anywhere really where too much overlapped sound hampers leisure or business activities. But don’t be misled, the beautiful and hypnotically haptic panels are desirable whether you need sound control or not. (More text after image break.)
Chorizo forgotten in a rubbish bin and minks no more, it was time to walk through fog and admire the architectural anchor of Smith Square, St John’s church (1728). On her way out your scribe interpreted the design of this Kyyrö Quinn cushion as a giant green stuffed olive. No more rogue chorizo, next time it’s a dry martini only for your scribe. DJ
Grayson Perry, Royal Academician, Turner Prize winner and fêted contemporary British artist? Meet Marguerite Zorach. Several years ago your scribe hit pay dirt in a charity shop. Ann Wiseman’s 1969 book Rag Tapestries and Wool Mosaics introduced your scribe to American modern artist Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968), and it was Zorach herself who introduced Wiseman to the art of hand-hooked rugs. Although Zorach is undeservedly little known in Europe, your scribe nevertheless suspects Perry’s tapestry series “The Vanity of Small Differences” owes a direct or indirect debt to Zorach. COVER has been granted exclusive permission by Zorach’s grandson to publish the following image.
With a mastery of multiple media and diverse stylistic influences from the Fauves to folk art, it would underserve Zorach to classify her solely as “a textile artist”. Zorach’s prolific output includes domestic tapestry panoramas, but unlike Perry’s tapestries, Zorach created each with her own hands. Choosing as her subject what others might see as rote domestic mundanity, Zorach knew these vignettes were fleeting treasures, and she captured her genius loci in an intimate way that allows subsequent audiences to feel kinship with her view of “earthly paradise”. Her work also contradicts the claim “Tapestry is the art form of grand houses”. So revelatory is Zorach’s technique, delivery and subject matter, your scribe has no qualms placing her on a par with British artist Sir Stanley Spencer.
The Zorach story did not end with her death in 1968. Her daughter Dahlov Ipcar (born 1917) is a well-known American artist, illustrator and writer. For those like your scribe who lament they will never own a Zorach tapestry, there is good news. The Classic Rug Collection licensed a selection of Ipcar’s illustrations and translated them into limited edition hand-stitched pillows and rugs. Barbara Barran, Founder and President of Classic Rug Collection told your scribe, “I gave one of these rugs to Dahlov, who put it in her bedroom, then did an oil painting of the rug in her room. Chaming! The painting sold immediately.”
Your scribe is only willing to share the news of Classic Rug Collection’s Dahlov Ipcar limited edition because she has already bagsied her trove. For the rest of you? Get in there quick before Grayson Perry buys up the lot. You will be buying the best of American art. DJ
Guy Fawkes night is past; the crypt is closed on Halloween; Alla helgons dag is no more, and the Day of the Dead is buried. The annual commemoration of failed political skullduggery; the celebration of ghouls, witches and “sexy” Halloween; and remembrances of the dead are over for 2012. Gone too is the Barbican’s production of Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are”. But we are fortunate. It is never too late to celebrate “wild things” if you own a “Monster Skin” rug or chair by Joshua Ben Longo.
If Longo had not titled his wool upholstered chair and wool rug “Monster Skin”, would we have the same atavistic attraction to them? The design, craftsmanship and superb detailing of the chair’s upholstery is evident, but would we “see” the scaly skin of a monster? Would we remember the “wild things” in Sendak’s book? Or would we see something prosaic like roofing tiles?
Longo’s pieces are not just a superb chair and a whimsical rug, they represent a masterclass in narrative. Titles make a profound difference in the viewer’s perception. Titles can attract or repel the audience, and they can make or break a product. Master colorist Donald Kaufman founded his firm in 1976. Known as the “color guru”, he consulted on the recently renovated American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The paints he manufactures are numbered, not named. As Kaufman explained to Elle Decor (US) magazine, “Color names are extremely dangerous, which is why we use numbers instead. People see color differently because of names. Beige is undervalued because the name has a bad association. Mint sounds like the color of a hospital, but call it ‘faded eucalyptus’ and people love it.”
Longo’s “Monster Skin” title is genius, but it also connects to his legacy of “Longoland”, his mythical monster characters. What child (or your scribe for that matter) would not want to bed into the depths of the “Monster Skin” chair and dream of wild things, fabled islands and mythical beasts? Who wouldn’t want to push their toes through the wooly scales of Longo’s “Monster Skin” rug and imagine heroic adventures? Who indeed? Which is why every home needs a “Monster Skin”. DJ
Editor Ben Evans picked up the Metro on the way to work this morning and discovered crotchetdermy. We love crocheting queen Shauna Richardson’s collection of stuffed animals. So do the V&A who exhibited her work as part of their ‘The Power of Making’ exhibition. Her creations remind me of the old joke: … “Would you like them mounted, Sir?” “No, just holding hands will do.” RW
While the design mafia flocked to the myriad events allied to the opening of the London Design Festival, your scribe spent a blissful morning yesterday at the British Museum press preview of the exhibition “Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain,” after which she admired the 5th c BC Motya Charioteer, on loan from Regione Siciliana, Assessorato dei Beni Culturali e dell’Identità Siciliana.
Your scribe chatted with Dr Mark McDonald, Curator of the exhibition, about Goya’s etching “The Blind Guitarist” (El ciego de la guitarra), 1778, the artist’s largest print and study for a tapestry. In 1775 Goya was living in Madrid and working on tapestry designs for Real Fábrica de Santa Bárbara. Your scribe assumes this tapestry was woven for Real Sitio del Pardo (Palacio del Pardo), but welcomes clarification from readers.
The composition is sketchy, particularly in the central zone with its thicket of figures. The exhibition label explains Goya had to modify the design “because the weavers found it impossible to interpret” the drawing for a cartoon. Were Goya’s loose and fluid lines evidence of his faith in the skill of the weavers or arrogance? “Option A”, Dr McDonald replied without hesitation, “certainly not arrogance”. Goya was, says McDonald, confident in the weavers’ skills, but “modified” and “simplified the central nine heads” when the weavers found the zone “impossible to translate”. The exhibition is open until 6 January 2012. DJ