work / REMNANT THREADS / COMMON THREAD 2006
Artist in Residence - The Victorian Tapestry Workshop*, May/June 2006. Catalogue Click Here
This exhibition titled Remnant Threads has been produced by Melbourne artist Peter Atkins during a residency at The Victorian Tapestry Workshop throughout May and June of 2006 - its 30th year. This vibrant suite of 12 richly coloured works made from the weavers discarded yarns and cottons, reflect Atkins’ continued interest in an experiential recording of his environment through the collecting and assembling of discarded ephemera. The works in this suite relate to Atkins’ Journal works – a two-decade body of on-going works that catalogue the artist’s travels, places he has lived and worked and general observations of the world providing us with fascinating insights into our behaviour and where we are in the 21st century. Curator Natalie King in her recent essay for Atkins’ solo exhibition at Sherman Galleries claims that the Journals are chronological and annotated diaries documenting personal experiences of place as told through materials. This body of work is no exception. Atkins’ booty of discarded remnant wools and cottons were discovered by him in the Workshop over the course of his residency. Recently the Workshop has been commissioned to make tapestries from paintings by artists that include Ken Whisson, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Angela Brennan, Louise Forthun, John Young, Jon Cattapan and Rosella Namok. Atkins uses the discarded threads from these various tapestries to produce works that reflect the unique palette of each of these artists’ paintings. All of Atkins’ Journals embody specific and unique relationships to the locale in which they were produced whether it be Sydney, India, Spain, Israel, Brunswick, or the Victorian Tapestry Workshop as the artist explains; These works are site specific to the environment of the workshop, I am being informed or governed by the residual material left over from the process of creating the tapestries. I am interested in continuing the story of these threads, documenting their inherent history, celebrating at once ‘what was’ and ‘what now is’. What I also find fascinating is the imposed order needed to create a tapestry – the discipline, ritual and the slow almost meditational way of working. Atkins is interested in recording these aspects of the weaving practice because in many ways it mirrors the systematic way he works himself. Atkins carefully binds the threads together in a horizontal design around the board over and over again in a ritualistic and methodical manner. The width of the bands were dictated by the lengths of left over threads collected by the artist. The various coloured strands employed in these panels are in fact made up of many thinner strands bound together giving the colours an inherent depth and luminescence. 'Remnant Threads’ stands as a reflection of the artist’s inquiring mind and his curious documentary process, but also as a celebration of the tapestries themselves, the journies of the discarded threads and of course the environment of the Workshop and its disciplined weavers.
Tsar Carpets - St. Kilda, 2009.
The initial discussion for this project began over three years ago when I was approached by the Directors of Tsar Carpets to collaborate on a series of designs - the first in an ongoing collaboration with Australian contemporary and indigenous artists. What interested me most about the project was that it wasn't simply a case of reproducing one of my paintings into a rug format but something that worked on a much deeper, more conceptual level in line with the various processes that inform my practice as a contemporary artist. It was a couple of years and many discussions later, before I thought that I had a body of work that would translate into a rug format. 'Remnant Threads' is that project, consisting of twelve separate panels that were constructed during a residency at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. The tapestry workshop offered an avalanche of material to work with. I was fascinated with the by-products of their industry, the threads left over or cut away from the finished tapestries. This process appealed to me because much of my work centers around collected material and the inherent narratives they contain. In this case I became interested in the complex 'story' of simple cotton and woollen thread. Firstly the cottton or wool is carefully dyed to match the existing painting. This in itself is a very labour intensive process. The tapestry is then woven to match the painting, which is displayed as a reference in the tapestry workshop during the weaving process. The various weavers make subtle judgements relating to the colour shifts within the paintings. This weaving process can take up to one year depending on the scale and intricacy of the tapestry. My residency centered on collecting the left over threads, sorting them out, often untangling huge clumps to get the lengths I needed to construct the work. I then bound the lengths around a simple piece of 12mm thick plywood panel which measured 33 x 33 cm. The width of each band in the work was dictated by the length of thread I had collected. In a sense I let the material itself dictate the finished work, the threads once sorted, were then chosen at random to construct the work. The wonderful thing that happened, was, that as each work progressed over the 6 week residency, the panels came to represent the 'palette' of each particular artist. The work where I have used the threads collected from the Ken Whisson Tapestry for example clearly illustrate the colours of his palette, which are pale pastel pinks, blues and yellows that he is famous for. The same could be said of the deep earthen and ochre tones of the Pedro Wonaemirri tapestry. When the opportunity came to work with Tsar I was excited about continuing the 'narrative' of this evolving story. An original painting by the artist is translated into a tapestry, the remnant threads are then collected to make a new work. This new work is then used as a reference for a series of carpets. I find these shifts fascinating and it has been exciting for me to step outside of my practice to work with specialist artisans and to see their various skills at work. With this project I feel that I am a small cog in a much larger machine. The narrative of the 'thread' itself and its constant reinterpretation is what this story is about. From Painting to Tapestry to Remnant Threads and then Carpets. It would be interesting to think that this project could continue to transform again after this exhibition of carpets.
* The Victorian Tapestry Workshop is now known as The Australian Tapestry Workshop
Below are a series of images - firstly from my residency at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop in 2006 and secondly from the collaboration with Tsar carpets in St. Kilda during 2009.
Remnant Threads 2006
Remnant threads collected from The VTW - bound around a 12mm plywood panel.
33cm x 33cm each (12 panels)
Commissioned tapestries from the VTW - leftover threads from these tapestries were used to construct 'Remnant Threads' 2006
Media Release ' 'Common Thread' 2009