This spring, Turner Contemporary in Margate, England, puts making and materiality center stage. Entangled: Threads & Making is a major exhibition of sculpture, installation, tapestry, textiles and jewelry from the early 20th century to the present day. It features more than 40 international female artists who expand the possibilities of embroidery, weaving, sewing and hand-made processes, often incorporating unexpected materials such as plants, clothing, hair and bird quills.
Writer and critic Karen Wright, with Turner Contemporary, is the curator of Entangled: Threads & Making. Wright became fascinated by the various methodologies of making she witnessed during many artist studio visits as part of her regular “In the Studio” column for The Independent newspaper. The idea for Entangled: Threads & Making evolved out of these visits, in particular one with renowned American artist Kiki Smith while she was working on her epic tapestry Sky, 2012.
Grounded in the work of 20th-century pioneers of textiles, fashion and handcrafted practice, such as Anni Albers, Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Delaunay, Eva Hesse and Hannah Ryggen, the exhibition will trace their impact on younger generations of artists who incorporate similar materials and processes into their work. Entangled: Threads & Making will also bring together 10 new works, created especially for the show. Surveying more than 100 artworks created between 1918 and 2016, the exhibition aims to reveal and celebrate the compulsion to make which lies at the heart of many of these artists’ diverse and varied practices.
The 20th-century weavers Anni Albers and Hannah Ryggen, who elevated tapestry to the status of fine art, will be shown alongside contemporary artists who are constantly reinventing the medium. Ryggen’s monumental political tapestry 6 oktober 1942 has never been exhibited in the UK before. Since its completion in 1943, it has been hugely influential on generations of textile-based artists working in Scandinavian countries, such as Norwegian Ann Cathrin November Høibo, who uses a loom to create abstract works, incorporating natural and synthetic materials found on her travels. November Høibo is one of a number of artists who have made new work for the exhibition at Turner Contemporary. German artist Christiane Löhr creates delicate sculptures made of seeds, tree blossoms and plant matter. For Entangled, Löhr will create a new work made from a column of locally sourced horsehair which will span the height of the gallery.
Both Eva Hesse and Susan Hiller began their careers as painters but went on to make experimental, handmade sculptures in the 1960s and 70s using the language of minimal and conceptual art. Entangled: Threads & Making includes a series of Hesse’s fragile forms in cheesecloth from 1969 alongside Hiller’s Painting Blocks, 1974/75, consisting of recycled canvases cut up and sewn together to form sculptural blocks. Ursula von Rydinsgvard’s Thread Terror, specially commissioned for the exhibition, is a large sculpture in cedar, carved by the artist to suggest thick thread or reams of fabric. Sonia Gomes draws on the traditions of indigenous cultures in her native Brazil for her colourful, abstract sculptures made by binding different fabrics around wire, whilst Phyllida Barlow recycles bits of timber, plywood and other discarded or everyday materials to create her brightly painted assemblages such as Untitled: Broken Shelf (2015).
A costume for Fokine’s ballet Cleopatre designed by Sonia Delauney in 1918 is shown in dialogue with the work of contemporary artists Aiko Tezuka, Arna Óttarsdóttir and Maria Papadimitriou, who work with clothing and textiles in various ways — the latter producing garments for or with others, as demonstrated by her collection of Roma coats included in the exhibition. Finally, a new interactive commission from Paola Anziché will take the form of a group of suspended tubes in raffia, wool, jute and other natural fibers, inviting viewers to walk through and within a sculpture, to get inside her chosen materials physically and providing an immersive exit from the show.