Tate, London: Richard Tuttle, The Weave of Textile Language

Feb 04 2016 Tags: American, Children, Cloth, Contemporary, Designer / Maker, Exhibition, Fabric, Heritage, London, Textiles, Weaving, Woven

Hung above the atrium in the Tate’s vast Turbine Hall, enormous waves of bright orange and mountainous red fabric are draped across a wooden and steel structure. Richard Tuttle’s I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language, weighs over 15 tonnes, is the largest work ever created by the renowned American sculptor and the most colourful ever to go on display in the space.

richard tuttle language of cloth

I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language; Richard Tuttle, Turbine Hall

We joined Achim Borchardt-Hume, Head of Exhibitions at Tate Modern, to discuss the commission, which is made from both man-made and natural fibres.

'Tuttle has taken as his starting point one of the unsung heroes of everyday life: textiles. Textiles are commonly associated with craft and fashion, yet woven canvas lies behind many of the world’s most acclaimed works of art and textiles are of increasing interest to artists today.’

richard tuttle language of cloth

I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language; Richard Tuttle

HOW? Developed over a period of two years, Tuttle worked with a team of specialists, each expert in their own field, including engineers, carpenters, steel workers and fabric producers. All UK based apart from the specially sourced fabric from Shah’s factory, Serat, India.

Constructed on the hall floor, once the fabric was draped onto the vertical steel the structure was raised slightly. Additional pieces of wood were then added and the structure further raised.

richard tuttle language of cloth

I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language; Richard Tuttle

WHY? Speaking to the BBC, Richard Tuttle said of the site specific work that it is intended to resemble aeroplane wings and that it was, ‘the job of the artist is to try to find a reunion between the mechanical and the human”. The wooden shapes of the sculpture, he continued, were designed to resemble aeroplane parts in order to “raise the issue of genocide.”

Tuttle has never given an explanation for the bright colours, a stark contrast to the typically sombre industrial colours used in the previous site-specific commissions. Typically worn by Buddhist monks across South East Asia, perhaps challenging the viewer to reflect on the Tate’s very own history, the relationship between empire and the Tate and Lyle family. .

Shah, selected Indian textile factory suggested Tuttle, ‘put into words what generally is experienced in a non-linguistic way. Tuttle wrote a description including three components – Drape, fall and aesthetics. Based on this exchanged, Shah’s team embarked on producing samples.

Achim Borchardt-Hume, Head of Exhibition, Tate Modern

Achim Borchardt-Hume, Head of Exhibition, Tate Modern

The midnight blue is the most expensive fabric yet lies underneath the read, barely visible. ‘This gives the impression of being shot through like a punch card for employees time cards, expressing Tuttle’s translation of language into cloth. A deliberate provocation by Tuttle to question what we value’.

Driven by a lifelong interest in textiles, he knew that you have to have a solid base. If you want to use colour you have to have a shape. If you want to communicate you have to have a language. This is the fundamental problem of creativity.

Seemingly ‘unfinished’ and criticised for being too simple and more suited to the backdrop of a theatrical production, Tuttle deliberately challenges our perception of textiles, fabric production, its complexity and collaborative nature.

Tuttle, a textile collector, is unusual for collecting man-made materials, ‘he makes a deliberate attempt to move away from the fetization of natural fibres, an increasingly popular obsession yet most people do not wear these materials. He is trying to disavow the attachments we hold with certain materials.’ Tate and Whitechapel Press Release October 2014

Make your own weave, Families Welcome Room, Tate Modern

Make your own weave, Families Welcome Room, Tate Modern

RICHARD TUTTLE came to prominence in the 1960s as part of a generation of post-minimalist artists and is known for his delicate, small-scale works and use of everyday, ephemeral materials. His work has often been described as being in a state of ‘in between’, moving between sculpture, painting, poetry and drawing, avoiding categorisation.

The commissioning process was conducted in tandem with the Richard Tuttle: The Weave of Textile Language exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery last autumn, surveying five decades of Tuttle’s career and sumptuous new publication rotted in the artist’s own collection of historic and contemporary textiles.

Work your weave, Families welcome room, Tate Modern

Work your weave, Families welcome room, Tate Modern

THE TURBINE HALL, we totally recommend you take your children along with you. They can explore the process of weaving themselves at the Families Welcome Room, Clore Room.  Rebecca took her nieces, who had to be dragged out of the room at home time!

The Turbine Hall is the largest contemporary art commission in the UK. It has played host to some of the world’s most striking and memorable works of contemporary art including Ai Weiwei, who filled the space with ceramic sunflower seeds, Carsten Höller, who had a helter skelter, and Olafur Eliasson, who brought the weather indoors

I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language is on display until 6 April 2015. To find out more visit: Richard Tuttle, Tate Modern



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