The venerable art of tapestry-making is alive and thriving in the British contemporary art scene. At least, that's what the people behind the exhibition Demons, Yarns & Tales want us to believe. New arts commissioning group Banners of Persuasion have gathered an eclectic set of artists, ranging from pop artist Peter Blake to transvestite pottery-maker Grayson Perry, and given them the task of translating their work to woven form.
It's a nice idea, and some works fulfill the potential. Offerings from YBA Gavin Turk and illustrator Julie Verhoven present a mash-up of contemporary culture (Turk more literally, in a squished-rubbish-style world map) that works strangely well in the traditional presentation. Paul Noble's surreal city makes for a magnificent tapestry, overwhelming in sheer scale and with added dimensionality as a slight breeze causes the rocky formations to bow, an effect that would never be possible on paper. Perry's contribution is perhaps the most successful of all. Engaging with the historical role of tapestry in telling tales of war and woe, he has created a Bayeux Tapestry for the modern world, complete with images of oil fields, burning jets and biological warfare in the form of rifle-wielding teddy bear Alan Measles.
Others don't benefit as much from the warp and woof, leading one to wonder if it's really worth the massive effort on the part of all those weavers. Peter Blake's Alphabet looks good, and would look good in any medium, as would Gary Hume's elegant Georgie and Orchids. Still, these modern-day tapestries show to beautiful effect in the cavernous interior of the cool white, freshly-painted (we won't say pasteurized) former dairy. And they will doubtless be snapped up by collectors at equally magnificent prices, which is after all - as with tapestries of old - the point of this showy display.
Words and picture by Rebecca Pohancenik
Demons, Yarns & Tales at The Dairy, until Saturday 22 November. For more information, go to the Banners of Persuasion website.