Textiles at Tate Modern

Yesterday I visited Tate Modern to see the Richard Tuttle installation I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language before it closes on 6 April.

Image: Tate Modern
Image: Tate Modern

Well, I don’t know. I didn’t get it. The scale is impressive, the colours were gorgeous (the fabric was provided by an Indian textile mill), but it left me cold.

Much more interesting was work by an artist new to me, Nicholas Hlobo. This South African artist combines paper, rubber and stitch in beautiful, tactile pieces. He uses rubber from inner tubes and satin ribbon to bring together masculine industrialisation and feminine domesticity. The suture stitches also bring to mind surgery and internal organs.

hlobo1 hlobo2 hlobo3 hlobo4

There are also some other interesting pieces in the same Energy and Process section on level 4. Chen Zhen’s Cocon du Vide sculpture is a hollow chrysalis-like form made of rosary and abacus beads, resembling a figure bent over in prayer.

chen zhen1

In a section entitled Homeworkers, the work of three female artists use materials and techniques traditionally associated with feminine craft and the domestic sphere to make political points.

Margaret Harrison’s Homeworkers is a banner-like canvas highlighting the manual labour involved in piecework and the money paid.

margarte harrison

The Pikes by Annette Messager manages to make stuffed heads and toys made out of old tights look startlingly creepy.

annete messager

And Geta Brǎtescu’s embroidered panels feature different versions of the same machine-stitched motif to represent the character of Medea, who took revenge on her husband Jason by sending his new bride a poisoned dress.


The Arte Povera and Anti-Form section features artists who used everyday materials in their works to upset ideas about how art should be created and displayed.

Jannis Kounellis’s untitled piece of uncarded wool displayed on a wooden frame had visceral appeal, especially as some of the wool was dyed blue (which could have been indigo!).


Godret Stone by Korean artist Seung-Taek Lee features the stones used in traditional Korean weaving.


Finally, I had a look at the temporary exhibition Louise Bourgeois: Works on Paper. I loved the organic forms of her etchings, but the exhibition also includes a couple of her fabric books.

Ode à la Bièvre has been deconstructed, with each page displayed in a separate frame. The varied techniques include lithograph printing and dye on fabric as well as abstract drawings patched together from her fabric stash, including napkins from her bridal trousseau. One page (last one on the second row down) looks like shibori. 🙂


Louise Bourgeois: Works on Paper runs at Tate Modern until 12 April 2015.