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:

PaisleyMake Festival: Fashion & Design Showcase

Yesterday I went 'behind the scenes' of Paisley Museum's pattern archives as part of the PaisleyMake festival of creativity and design celebrations. For a student of textiles and a lover of all things pattern, it was catnip and Christmas come early. (Cue selfie with a loom!) Rebecca Johnstone, Paisley Museum

As the Paisley2021 City of Culture UK bid gains momentum, the spotlight is on Scottish designers as they showcase their wares in Paisley Abbey for the PaisleyMake festival in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed.

As part of the showcase, experts from across the fashion and textile industry are speaking on topics such as innovation, collaboration and smart textiles. (Find out who and when.)

Being a local designer myself, I was delighted to get a sneak-peek, and was drawn to this colourful stand featuring designs and prints by Mairi Helena.

Scotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

The hat and glove sets by Green Thomas lured me with their patterns, and the 100% lambswool scarves had me thinking: hello autumn accessories.

Green Thomas Hat and Gloves, Paisley MakeScotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

Other designers selected to exhibit include: Barbra Kolasinski, Natasha Marshall, Rebecca Torres, Niki Fulton, Pea Cooper Millinery, Vonne Alley and Siobhan Mackenzie. (Full list plus links.)

The place to be is Paisley Abbey in the heart of the town, flanked by one of the many colourful lions for the Pride of Paisley summer art trail. 

A 'Pride of Paisley' lion outside Paisley Abbey

The striking Paisley-pattern weave on these decorated pillars create a really eye-catching entrance to the Abbey - thank Dyane Lanez of Tout Petit.

I love a bit of yarn-bombing but maybe this is weave-wrapping?

Decorated pillars at the entrance to Paisley Abbey

And while the focus is on modern innovations, and for many people tartan is the first thing that leaps to mind as the go-to Scottish textile, it's hard to imagine today's Paisley town-centre as a once-thriving textile hub, home to hand-weavers threading the intricate design of the now-infamous 'floral teardrop' into shawls that were sold around the world.

Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley Museum Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley MuseumPaisley Pattern archive, Paisley Museum

Paisley Museum's design archives proffer an inspirational legacy for a new generation of artisans and designers to reconnect with Paisley's many treasures, perhaps re-working the 'Paisley pattern' or the 'Paisley print' for the modern era of fashion and textile design?

I intend to rise to this challenge and will be drawing (literally!) my inspiration from the early European and Indian influences, as well as key motifs from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.

I look forward to featuring more of the archival pattern books that Dr Dan Coughlan, Curator of Textiles at Paisley Museum, was kind enough to share, but for now I'll leave you with some more creative inspiration from the Scotland Re:Designed showcase - until 3rd September 2016.

Jewellery by Others Are at PaisleyMake festival

Rings by Others Are.

Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes

Intricate Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes.

PaisleyMake street signs, Paisley

NB: Although I was lucky enough to attend a local Blogger Preview to the collections at both Paisley Museum and the PaisleyMake showcase, this is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.

Glasgow School of Art: Degree Show 2016

I was lucky enough to attend the preview of the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show last week, leaving with my head full of ideas and inspiration (wishing I was back at university myself with access to all that TIME and resource to freely CREATE and EXPERIMENT...) My favourite part? The textiles, of course.

I was really struck by Rosie Noon's collection; the sheer embroidery words that look like they've been scraped into skin. The details are texturally intricate with so many elements to draw the eye.

I wanted to know more about the themes surrounding this work, and luckily, Rosie details her starting point and inspiration:

My graduate embroidery collection was instigated by the discovery of a photograph album documenting the mysterious life of 'Silvia'. Inspired by the repetition of women in mid-century dresses standing against blurred, floral backgrounds, contrasted by handwritten annotation of places and dates, I looked to re-appropriate these qualities in creating a new story through collage aesthetic in drawing and textile processes.

This connection to the past through a single photograph is catnip to a writer, textile lover and diarist like myself! Gorgeous work.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSANext I was enthralled by the beautiful tactile surface elements in Penny Hewitt's work. She describes her collection:

Capturing the repetition and structures within organic form, closely exploring irregular repeat patterns.

The colours made me think of the fashion collection in my fictional novel, and I wanted to take these samples home and pin them to my wall!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAI couldn't help but see a buoyant jellyfish suspended here in Niamh Brannan's display, the clash of colours so riotous, playful, fun and daring.

Her collection puts me in mind of Mary Katrantzou prints in tactile form. Or a statement window display in a European capital? KaDeWe in Berlin springs to mind; a slew of designer handbags in matching jellyfish attire.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThese sponge-fronds attached to plastic tubing put me in mind of medical textiles and the innovations in that area. They would certainly make for 'fashionable arteries'!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThe crisp geometric folds and stitches in paper, fabric, leather and digitally cut vinyl designed by Rochelle McGuinness really caught my eye, their application mocked up in lampshades and reminding me of some of the Cubist ceramics for sale at the Kubista museum in Prague.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThe method of display that Eliza Glanville uses is so fresh, funky and playful. I love her collage work and sketches and how both these elements feed into her textile designs.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAMore faces. I'm enthralled by faces! Katie O'Brien describes her collection:

Tufting, embellishment and fraying techniques are explored within distinctive arrangements of colour, composition and contrasting materials...

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAA knitted wire dress - 'entanglement' - by Kirsty Lamont:

Entanglement aims to challenge the perceived dichotomy between island and city life. Rather than seeing city life and Island life as two sides of a dichotomy I suggest that they are in fact far more interlinked than people suppose, and that they exist as an ‘entanglement’. Rather than viewing knitting in two halves with ‘traditional’ island knitwear on one side and ‘modern’ textile technology knitwear on the other, my aim is to create something more akin to a gradient where the two sides become enmeshed together in the centre.

Meanwhile, the intricate embroidery of Maja Bjork's collection is both fun and compelling.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThese kinds of textiles really excite me as I imagine them 50ft tall and billowing from the atriums of important buildings; tongue-in-cheek depictions perhaps of the people who reside inside?

After wandering the textile displays I ventured upstairs, passing gorgeous, architectural jewellery and spoons cast in silver made to resemble twigs. I spent the rest of the night exhausting my eyes, pointing at things, my mind whirring.

It was "an attempt to articulate" (super cool title).


20160616_191216Glasgow School of Art (GSA)  is indeed a hotbed of innovation. The Degree Show did not disappoint.