From the archive: one of my favourite pieces

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found a cache of good photographs of some of my older work, and this is one of them.  This is a piece called ‘Touch’ from a series I did on corporate excess and the five senses.  I don’t want to go into lots of detail about the project, but a few details will probably be helpful.  I went to see the wonderful Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Musee Cluny in Paris with the medieval historian and just thought they were fabulous.

 

 

The Lady and the Unicorn - A mon seul desir

 

I felt a bit sorry for the other tapestries in the museum because once you had seen these all the others looked crude in comparison.  They clearly impressed Tracey Chevalier, the writer, as well, because she wrote a nice novel about them.  They were made for a nobleman on the rise in the French court to impress visitors basically, and each one showed one of the five senses with some sort of contemporary luxury item associated with them.  So sound had a small portable organ, taste had a dish of sweets, vision had a mirror and so on.  The sixth tapestry is a bit more mysterious where the lady is either putting away or putting on a beautiful necklace.  Anyway, I started wondering what a very rich young corporate star on the rise through, say, one of the big investment banks, would commission on a series of tapestries in the same vein.  I looked for inspiration to the Financial Times How to Spend It supplement which is one of the glossiest publications around.  I had lots of fun with the quilts.  This one, which is about touch, is based on collecting imperial Chinese robes.  You need to be seriously rich for this because they are expensive – the yellow ones particularly so – and you need an air-conditioned room to keep them in.  I also think that if you bought one you would want to try it on – even if only for a moment, to take on some of that power which has seeped into the cloth.  (I wrote this up, and this is the stuff that Zigmunt Baumann quotes for those of you who are interested in arcane academic stuff).

But, this is one of my very favourite things of everything that I have ever made.  First, I am a sucker for anything on a yellow background.  I love yellow.  I know it has negative connotations of jealousy and cowardice and infection, but I think it is sunny and joyful and I really love it with purple and lavender and mauve.  I use it a surprising amount.  Second, I think that this is some of the best design I have done.  It just worked right from the beginning.  Third, it got finished.  This quilt has three layers, bondaweb and acrylic paint.  It was an absolute nightmare to stitch.  But I have always thought it was one of my best efforts, and it is one of the ones that I would be very reluctant to part with.

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