I visited the Brunei Gallery attached to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) which is part of the University of London recently. They are right next to the Senate House Library where I am often found reading and wandering the halls admiring the architecture. But, shame on me, this was my first visit to the gallery and it was for an exhibition of textile art.
This is an astounding display of textiles from 35 countries ranging from Venezuela and Australia to India, the U.S. and Laos, to China and Kuwait. The textiles are hung down the stairs, across ceilings and draped round manikins, in cases and laid on benches as well as hung on the walls.
The range of articles displayed was wonderful. There were different textiles: hemp, wool, cotton, silk, bark and a wide variety of techniques for applying paint, ink, thread, texture and dye.
This piece: “If you Bloom” by Liang Xuefang, was my favourite. This photo doesn’t do it justice as in the flesh it is delicate and stunning painting of ducks swimming through the lotus stems in winter. The depth of field portrayed by the Suzhou embroidery is extraordinary. The whole piece is so fine that it gently flutters in any breeze made by people walking around.
The textiles are supplemented with crocheted jewellery, felted jackets and there are examples of textiles in the process of being woven on the ground floor gallery. I loved the contemporary bark belts and handbags (no pics unfortunately).
The whole exhibition was stunning with the sumptuous dyes and the extravagant embroideries and embellishments. Interesting, then that the textiles which I photographed were all muted and delicate!
The gallery is in the middle of the busy SOAS courtyard and stepping into its halls, you immediately take on that quiet, church-like contemplation which is required of art gallery visits. What I really enjoyed was that a group of young women turned up and broke that reverend silence we have all been taught to uphold. It was all so exciting they just ran from piece to piece finding the styles and techniques they wanted to replicate themselves. That is the best recommendation for the gallery – that it is inspirational.
The World Eco Fibre & Textile (WEFT) Art is on until 23 March 2013. If you are in London, it is well worth a visit.