M A T E R I A L:  Textile

Saturday 9 March – Sunday 28 April 2019

PREVIEW: Friday 8 March 2019


Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce our inaugural Material: Textile exhibition, featuring clothes from 8th century Peru to 21st century Denmark as well as prints, rugs, tapestries and embroideries made by some of the greatest names in Western art.

Join us on Friday 8 March for the preview across both gallery spaces. Our popular Collector’s tour starts at 6pm ahead of the gallery opening to the public at 6:30pm. There is an option to join us for our popular Supper Club in the Mess Restaurant at 8pm, there will be a set menu devised by our events chef Ana Ortíz…see menu

Textile has often been associated with merely furnishing the home or decorating the human body but now artists – many of whom work across media – are increasingly starting to use them as a means of artistic expression and as an equivalent to paint. In particular we focus on contemporary tapestry with a remarkable 3D work by Goshka Macuga. ‘Make Tofu Not War’, first shown at Frieze London in 2018, that layers visual references including the Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, a cosmonaut, a space capsule and environmental protestors dressed as animals, invites us to speculate on what we are doing to today’s landscape.

Francesca Lowe’s 2008 tapestry Trump has an ethereal beauty that references the darkness of Old Master paintings with their gloomy hues and philosophical narratives. Depicting an epic struggle between two male forms – one dark, one light – the figures represent two states of being or egos, while Laure Prouvost’s work like a negative photograph, depicting a 1950s snapshot of a trumpet player in a pork-pie hat with 1950s Hummer cars, uses the very fabric of the material as a vehicle for nostalgia.

Textiles exist everywhere in our lives, our history, our cultures and our politics – and indeed the finely worked cloth of ancient civilisations were used as both a tax and currency. The very best textiles are in many cultures still the most prized of all possessions, even more precious than gold or silver. Raphael is perhaps as treasured for the enormous tapestries he designed for the Sistine chapel as he is for his paintings; the Gobelins tapestries that Louis XIV ordered for his palace at Versailles were an important part of its grandeur.

Material: Textile showcases works ranging from the simple geometric beauty of cloth from the 8th century in Peru to a Tibetan saddlecloth dating from the 19th century,

Predating other mediums such as ceramic and painting, the textile arts in the Pre-Columbian period are widely regarded as the key to unlocking the ancient culture of the Andes in South America. Featuring a series of Inca and Nazca textiles arts from Paul Hughes Fine Arts, our exhibition showcases some of their most sophisticated techniques such as interlocking tapestry, discontinuous waft and weft and feather sewing – pioneered by the Andeans, whose geometries and colour influenced artists such as Anni Albers whose work is included in the show.

Ancient techniques of weaving, tapestry, embroidery and knitting continue to have a lasting appeal for artists but also celebrated in Material: Textile is the synergy between the commissioning person or artist and the workshop that is often present in the process of making tapestries or carpets. In particular we highlight the important roles played by the Edinburgh based weavers Dovecot Studios, as well as Christopher Farr and Equator Production, where skilled makers have kept techniques alive that may have otherwise been lost, allowing for artists today to explore the medium for its material processes and possibilities.

Carpets loaned from Equator Production in New York include pieces by Adam Belcher, Liam Gillick, Joseph Kosuth and Rosemarie Trockel. Trockel, a German conceptual artist broke art/design barriers in the fine art world in the 1980s with a series of computer-generated knitted works, which featured familiar yet enigmatic emblems including the Woolmark logo and the Playboy Bunny symbol. Her desire to transgress the decorative category of textile was galvanised by such rugs as Made In Western Germany, which like her knitted works, wove in well-known logos and symbols with a distinctively political as well as aesthetic impulse.

We also showcase the first collaborations between artists (including Picasso, Matisse and Hepworth) and fabricators, with a collection of Modernist silks and fabrics presented by Gray M.C.A as well as knitted jumpers by Freddie Robins who challenges the notion of knitting as a passive, benign activity and the countryside as a pastoral idyll, with a collection of reworked hand-knitted jumpers that feature pictures on them of suicides, car crashes, houses on fire and helicopters in the air.

In a similar vein, American-born British-based artist Christian Newby’s Glassy-EyedCult/Escoria!/­­J­­ulioFlores/TheSpinners asks the question how many different ways can we retool or repurpose an industrial carpet gun into a ‘convivial’ tool? And does the mutation from a hand-held carpet-tufting gun into mark-making tool reveal a sense of otherness existing beyond commercial design objectives and principles? Newby’s multi-disciplinary practice is concerned with bypassing established narratives in genre, particularly textile and ceramic, and is interested in how surfaces function outside of the confines of traditional craft rhetoric.

A highlight of our show is a 26 metre long sculpture, The Onion Farm, which will run the length of our medieval barn by leading Danish fashion designer and artist Henrik Vibskov that was first shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum in September 2018. The light, dynamic, Mikado-like structure, composed of colourful carwash brushes and red fabric onions will serve as the runway for a catwalk show by a number of international fashion designers including Vibskov on 26 April 2019.

Artists: Anni Albers, Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Adam Belcher, Louise Bourgeois, Georges Braque, Antoni Clavé, Oscar Dominguez, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Roger Fry, Magne Furuholmen, Liam Gillick, Ashley Havinden, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Des Hughes, Inca, Kurt Jackson, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, Joseph Kosuth, Francesca Lowe, Goshka Macuga, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Christian Newby, Ben Nicholson, Pablo Picasso, John Piper, Laure Prouvost, Jacky Puzey, Alan Reynolds, Freddie Robins, William Scott, Nicholas de Staël, Hans Tisdal, Rosemarie Trockel, Gavin Turk, Keith Vaughan, Paule Vézelay, Wari and Henrik Vibskov

Events Programme

Our Material: Textile Process Weekend ‘Common Threads’ includes talks, workshops and demonstrations by makers, artists, journalists and people in industry and will take place on the final weekend of the show on 26 – 28 April:


Friday 26 April
7 – 9pm: CATWALK FASHION SHOW, headlined by Henrik Vibskov

Saturday 27 April
10am – 11am Talk and Demo: Zoe Ritchie on wool and natural dyeing
11am – 12 noon Talk: Catarina Riccabona on weaving
12.45 – 1.45pm 3×15 Talk: Common Threads – Narrative, Process and Collaboration with artists Celia Pym and Freddie Robins + Kate Grenyer (Curator, Dovecot Studios) chaired by Polly Leonard (Editor, Selvedge Magazine)
2 – 5pm Workshop: ‘Mending’ with Celia Pym
2 – 5pm Workshop: Material Propositions by CSM MA Material Futures Fab Lab
5 – 6pm 3×15 Talk: Common Threads – Can creativity, productivity  and sustainability overlap with Galahad Clark (founder of Vivo Barefoot), Kieran Jones (course leader MA Material Futures) and Edwina Ehrman (Senior Exhibition Curator at the V&A)

Sunday 28 April
10am – 12 noon Workshop: Fashion Illustration Master class with Jason Brooks
1 – 2pm 3×15 Talk: Common Threads with Jacky Puzey (embroidery specialist), Joshua Millard (womenswear designer and tailor) and Connie Gray (fashion curator)
2 -4 pm Workshop: Embroidery with Jacky Puzey

Top: Christian Newby ‘El Ranchito’