Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol - Part 1

I visited this exhibition ARTIST TEXTILES: PICASSO to WARHOL at the wonderfully picturesque and historic New Lanark Visitor Centre OVER A YEAR AGO.

Planning to share the delights at the time, it seems that life happened and I didn’t manage it. Having recently stumbled upon the trove of images I took as I wandered round the carefully curated space, I realised the time to share them is NOW.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Tracing the history of 20th century ART in TEXTILES, the exhibition features a host of feted designers across key art movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism and Pop Art.

With any exhibition like this featuring designs from the past, there is no real ‘expiry’ date to the inspiration and wonder. It first ran at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London circa 2014, but has been on tour ever since, only finishing next week (6th May) at the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai.

“I’ve spent my life ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich.”

William Morris, Textiles Designer, 1876

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The florals here are timeless and have a collaged vibe. The colour palette is refined, beautiful and graceful, bringing to mind afternoon tea in a stately home.

Quickly we move on to geometrics and Russian aeroplanes, the latter roller-printed on cotton circa 1920’s. I love their simple, fun form and can imagine dressing my little boy in an outfit featuring such a delightful print.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Gerald Wilde, screen-printed silk fashion textile, 1944

Gerald Wilde, screen-printed silk fashion textile, 1944

“After the second world war, artists methods and the subjects they portrayed began to embrace the dynamism of contemporary life. They focused not on representational images, but on pattern, colour and abstraction. This new style translated perfectly into textile design.”

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The art itself is telling a story, whether in block-print repeat or through the stark yet abundant landscapes that make a dramatic statement through their imaginative use of colour. I love the whispering women below, ‘Gossips’ by Textile Designer Virginia Lee Burton with their huge bustled skirts. Are they friend or foe? I would LOVE a skirt or dress in that print! (It was also available as a gorgeous deep green.)

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Moving on to the bright-brights, I lingered around these Surrealist silk headscarves by Salvador Dali, none of which would look out of place AT ALL in a boutique anywhere in the world RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I admire his bold use of colour and almost naive rendering of the abstract shapes. I don’t think he would mind me saying that. He always appeared so friendly with his tapered moustache and mischievous eyes…

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Am I right in thinking these are telephones hanging on a wall in an underwater cave, or a train tunnel, or simply floating in a swimming pool?

It’s like taking a trip each time you look at these as the multiple layers of meaning in the art reveal themselves as though in a mass Rorschach experiment. I remember circling back a few times to stare into them as though I was furiously churning the end of a kaleidoscope.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

“Surrealism aimed to revolutionise human experience, rejecting a rational vision of life in favour of one that asserted the value of the unconscious and dreams, championing the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary.”

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Sticking with the brights this angelic/cherub, parcels of florals, a woman with carrots and onions in her hair and a quartet of female-clown faces.

Maybe I’m being too literal and I sound perhaps like these pieces weren’t/aren’t to my taste, but quite the contrary. I love the energy in the lines and the distinctive style that flows through the artist’s hand (Marcel Vertes).

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Faces are a perennial attraction in design - mostly female faces. The image below is not a good photograph, but I love this Picasso print with the dove at the centre in primary colours with the text around the outside. It’s like the four faces of the world, designed clearly for the ‘Festival Mundial’ in Berlin, 1951.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The array of prints was dizzying with far too many to describe or include here, but taken together these had my synapses firing and inspire(d) me to work harder on my own art and surface pattern design.

There is nothing better to ‘fill your creative bucket’ than an exhibition like this featuring some of the best designers of the last century, plus.

I haven’t even started on the fashion part yet or the Warhol prints.

I’m saving those for Part 2 :)

Angelo Testa, screen-printed cotton wall-hanging, 1947

Angelo Testa, screen-printed cotton wall-hanging, 1947

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

I’m going to finish Part 1 with this - ‘A Fish is a Fish is Fish’ by Ken Scott.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

As a Piscean, I’m always inspired by and interested in fish prints and the sea. Curiously, there were a few different hen prints too. Quite interesting how they could easily be imagined on upholstery or even fashion, particularly the smaller, non-directional ditzy print?

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Part 2 of this exhibition post coming next week.

Cocka-doodle-doo (like no revered artist of the 20th century would ever say…)

NB. I’ve credited the artists where possible, but as I saw this exhibition a year ago, some of the details that I would have had fresh in my mind, have gone. Apologies! I remember I’d wanted to purchase the book that was produced in conjunction with this exhibition, however it was sold out at the time and I think is perhaps no longer in print - unless they have it in Shanghai?

LISTEN to this post in a Male US/Scottish Accent: