Award Exhibition

Valerie Kirk, Curator

The “LAND” exhibition was held in conjunction with the major tapestry event “TAPESTRY 2008” Canberra, Australia in 2008. There was a program of exhibitions, focussed talks with tapestries in collections and institutions, practical workshops, seminars and symposium. This program built on the momentum of previous events in Australia and explored the relationships between Fine Art, Tapestry and Weaving. The event brought together practitioners, educators, students, collectors, critics, theorists and historians for exchange of ideas, interaction, practical learning, exposure to new works and informed debate. As an important part of this event and in recognition of the strength of contemporary tapestry world wide, the open submission “LAND” Award Exhibition was presented.

The theme for the exhibition was quite simply “LAND”. Exhibiters were not restricted to depicting the landscape from traditional perspectives but were encouraged to address issues of land ownership, preservation of land, economics/social/cultural/spiritual issues relating to land, ecology, environmental issues, personal perspectives etc. All tapestry weavers internationally - students through to professional weavers could submit works.

The only stipulation of format was that tapestries had to measure 10 cm in height by as long as the weaver wanted (i.e. horizontal landscape format), with no framing devices so that the tapestries could be hung in one line with space between the works at eye level around the walls of the exhibition space.

There was a major award of $1000 and an award of $500 for an emerging artist (student or working in tapestry for less than 5 years) presented by The Tapestry Foundation of Victoria and an award presented by the ATA.

Well before the deadline, the parcels started arriving from all over the world with interesting stamps and packaging. As we opened each one, we marvelled at the creativity, skill and personal investment in the tapestries. Amy Kerr was employed to catalogue the works and prepare for the exhibition putting reference pages with background information about the artists and their work in a folders which were available for people to read during the exhibition. We enjoyed finding longer and longer tapestries as people had ambitiously woven metres of tapestry 10 cm high. Two people had misread the instructions and had in one tapestry 10 ins. as the height and in another 10cm as the width.

The number of tapestries submitted well exceeded our expectations and the hanging committee had to adjust the format to include all works. The quality of work was also outstanding. Perhaps the prizes had given people the incentive to strive for excellence.

Overall the exhibition created an enormous amount of interest from weavers and non-weavers alike. The theme made the work easily accessible to the audience with enough variation in ideas, visual and technical approaches to sustain interest through the whole show. During TAPESTRY 2008 many people commented that as they returned to the exhibition they kept noticing new and different works.

The judges indeed had an exceedingly difficult task. Many, many tapestries merited awards for outstanding achievement and the range of tapestries presented by emerging artists was inspiring.

Although the tapestries were on display for nearly a month, the time was too short to really appreciate fully all of the work. The exhibition on the web provides an opportunity for many to look again at the work and reflect on individual pieces and for a new audience to experience the LAND tapestries from around the world that connected us in a common theme and love of woven tapestry.

Valerie Kirk

Tapestry Weaver and Head of Textiles, The Australian National University.

Organiser of the LAND exhibition.

About Valerie Kirk

Valerie Kirk studied art and design at Edinburgh College of Art and was captivated by the creative process/infinite possibilities of the tapestry medium. In 1979 she came to Australia to become a weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, then worked in all states of Australia before moving to Canberra in 1991 to be the Head of Textiles at the Australian National University, School of Art. Her work from this time focussed on what it meant to be a Scottish/Australian in this context.

Valerie is considered to be an important international figure in the world of contemporary tapestry. As an artist, writer, teacher and public figure she has made a significant contribution, forging valuable and tangible links with the Scottish tradition and global field. While actively maintaining her practice as an artist, Valerie’s remarkable capacity for achievement has seen her inspire and lead community tapestry projects, research and write a major thesis on tapestry, direct significant textile projects and create major works. She has held several solo exhibitions and presented her work in USA, Europe, Australia, NZ and SE Asia. Between 2004-2005 she was commissioned to design and weave three major tapestries to celebrate Nobel Prizes in Science associated with the Australian National University. A further tapestry was commissioned and woven in 2006 featuring the work on small pox and myxomatosis of Professor Frank Fenner. The tapestries are installed and on public display at University House, ANU.

Valerie’s most outstanding achievement to date is winning the “To Furnish a Future” carpet design competition in 2006. The selected “Crimson Carpet” design draws on the natural patination of stone around Government House, Sydney, combining with a palette of crimson from the tonal range in the Waratah flower. The second stage of the project involved working closely with the consulting design team, the Australian company, “Whitecliffe Imports” and the manufacturers, “Siam Carpets” in Thailand. The hand tufted carpet measures 8m x 20m and was produced in one piece to fit the rooms. The design is significantly different from the normal range of carpet design and at the Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards 2008 held on Monday 7 APRIL 2008, the refurbishment of the State Rooms at Government House won one of the major awards - Conservation, Built Heritage for a Project under $1 million. Awards such as the Australia Council New Work grant and Muse Arts Woman of the Year mark substantial success and her artwork is documented in the Telos Portfolio Collection publication.