L’MAD invited South African artist, Michael Taylor to explore the art of tapestry – a medium foreign to his usual practice. Revisiting the art form, with its complex and well-documented past, has enabled Taylor to consider it as an illuminating format for his contemporary art practice.
The hand-woven medium of tapestry and the knowledge of its craft began in France in 14th century and reached its height in the 17th century. In collaboration with L’MAD, the Stephens Tapestry Studio in South Africa has embarked on a series of contemporary tapestries, evolving the medium instinctively from its historical past. Known for translating the original concepts of artist William Kentridge into intricate, large-scale tapestries, the Stephens Tapestry Studio employs a team of local weavers, spinners, and dyers who work on vertical looms using mohair spun in Swaziland.
Of course, transforming the artist’s concept into a woven tapestry poses certain visual and tactile issues concerning the translation of meaning. This process reveals the shifting transformation of the artist’s unique visual style from his known medium into uncharted territories. At the outset, the physical medium itself appears most challenging to the artist.
Most artists tend to be concerned with technical matters such as the texture of the material, unfamiliar colours and the complexity of the weave. Then, as the work progresses and develops, the medium begins to contribute to, rather than negotiate, the original concept. The hand-woven, natural or dyed, mohair proves itself to be an alternative and beautifully warm canvas – soft and tactile.
The medium of tapestry proves itself unmatched in terms of physical presence and representing artistic concepts at vast scale.
Text and images sourced from L’MAD Collection