Penelope's Labour - Weaving Words and Images
'Tapestries ancient and modern are the toast of Venice .....“Penelope's Labour” is highly intelligent, and beautifully displayed ....Dont miss it.'
The best of the biennale's peripheral exhibitions is Penelope's Labour, at the Cini Foundation, an exploration of weaving - yes, weaving - both ancient and modern, in which our own Grayson Perry finds himself sharing a display with 15th-century Flemish tapestries and gorgeous Safavid carpets from Persia. Beautifully installed, with a poetic Arabian Nights mood to it, the show makes ancient exhibits look fresh and fresh exhibits feel ancient. Craigie Horsfield has created a dark and turbulent wall hanging that actually shows an anarchist pop concert, but feels, I swear, like a biblical crowd scene painted by Caravaggio. And Carlos Garaicoa, my favourite discovery perhaps of the entire biennale, gives us a set of brilliantly effective trompe l'oeil carpets modelled on the crumbling pavements of Havana. And to think I didn't believe in magic carpets.
A number of contemporary artists have been rediscovering weaving with amazing results, as shown by an enchanting exhibition, Penelope's Labor: Weaving Words and Images, of pieces ancient and modern.
The more you see, the more you want to look,
Ikono TV showcase
Weavings from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini Collection shown alongside new woven works by Azra Aksamija, Lara Baladi, Alighiero Boetti, Manuel Franquelo, Carlos Garaicoa, Craigie Horsfield, Grayson Perry and Marc Quinn. Exhibition by Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Factum Arte from 31 May - mid Sept 2011.
See the catalogue in our Publications section here.
Tapestry is the great example of image and word transformed by the materiality of its medium. For centuries, it was valued above paintings, its precious gold, silver and silk thread combining with the intensive labour and intricate collaborative creation of the woven image bewitching the elite from east to west. The woven image told fabulous, discontinuous stories in a language that was unique to itself, which created unique images that integrate colour and material fabric in a way that surpassed painting, drawing and sculpture. Its overwhelming visual power was only discernible in its presence, and has since been diminished by reproductions in books and poor conservation which has left many surviving examples a pale shadow of their original, glittering aura. With the rise of painting and the development of technological innovations in weaving in the seventeenth century, tapestry began to imitate painting, leading to its long decline and marginalisation into a craft tradition. But in recent years, with the development of digital technology and the emphasis on the ways in which images and words are transformed and mediated from the ephemeral to the material, artists have returned to tapestry as a medium which asks what is physically possible in the creation of a sensuous art object. This exhibition unites Vittorio Cini’s fascination with the manual production of tapestry with contemporary art and the renewed ability of artists to use the medium to tell a range of powerful and compelling stories that address the warp and weft of our contemporary realities. Drawing on late fifteenth-century tapestries depicting the sack of Jerusalem, to Azra Aksamija’s collective weaving of the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina via Grayson Perry's vast allegory of contemporary life the 'Walthamstow Tapestry' and Marc Quinn’s flowers of our manipulated natural world, this exhibition will put the woven image back at the heart of contemporary artistic practice.
A video of the making of the tapestries,
Fondazione Giorgio Cini video
The Siege of Jerusalem
Alighiero Boetti - Mappa. 1978
Simon Peers & Nicholas Godley - The Woven Web. Trial 1. 2009
Azra Aksamija - Monument in Waiting. 2008
An incomplete Persian carpet in the early Safavid courtly style with animal combats and mythical beasts on a densely patterned field filled with arabesques, palmettes and swiriling tracery. Mid-sixteenth century, 384 x 274 cm, woollen pile on a silk foundation.
Marc Quinn - Pixelation of a Hybrid. 2011
Marc Quinn - Pixelation of a Hearth. 2011
Lara Baladi - Sandouk El Dounia. 2007
Lara Baladi - Sandouk El Dounia (detail)
Large leaf tapestry. Wool and silk weft, 160 x 263 cm.
Craigie Horsfield - Above the road toward Taibique, El Hierro. 15 minutes. February 2002
Craigie Horsfield - At 99 Posse concert. Via Gianturco, Naples. September 2008
Craigie Horsfield - At 99 Posse concert. Via Gianturco, Naples. September 2008 (detail)
Carlos Garaicoa - Fin de Silencio (detail: El Pensamiento). 2009
Grayson Perry - Walthamstow Tapestry. 2009
Grayson Perry - Walthamstow Tapestry
"Tapedi Damaschini". A carpet with interlaced star-motifs in a four-and-one layout, each surrounded by a radial arrangement of "small motifs", the field enclosed by a Kufiesque border.
Manuel Franquelo - Palimpsest and Palindrome. 2011
Manuel Franquelo - Palimpsest and Palindrome (detail)
Interviews with some of the participating artists