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After Benches

woven by Edinburgh Tapestry Co. 
150 x 240 cm 
(photograph: Petr Krejci) 

Notes on this work

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photograph Petr Krejci 

photograph Petr Krejci

After Benches was my initiation, in 1973, into the world of tapestry and the beginning of an association with Dovecot and Archie Brennan. The picture derives from a postcard of Battersea Park via a painting now in the Tate gallery. My chief pleasure in the project was to find a way of working with the weavers rather than to use them as highly skilled copyists. Thus the tapestry was divided into four sections, the weaver of each having decided on a strategy of transcription mirroring the different modes of colour printing. Their invention gives the whole image a revelatory liveliness which still excites me when I see it.

Works and Texts (1992),  p. 47-49

Tom Phillips has written 'It is easy when one's interests are intellectual and concerned with the structure of ideas to become very remote from the paper preoccupations of everyday life. I have tried to counterbalance this by using commonplace references (e.g. park benches) and unifying commonplace sources (the picture postcard). Art at the moment of production is sometimes unavoidably elitist, yet the democratic elements in it and the relationship to the life of the people eventually emerges'.

The design for this tapestry has been drawn from Phillips' huge collection of picture postcards which often provides the basis for his work. The lettering along the foot of the panel tells how the original postcard became the painting Benches, followed by two sets of prints and finally, through Archie Brennan and the Dovecot, it became this tapestry (which has since in its turn been made into a postcard).

Much of the success of this tapestry is due to Tom Phillips and Archie Brennan's abilities to break down colour with precision.

Master Weavers: Tapestry from the Dovecot Studios, 1912-1980, (Edinburgh: Scottish Arts Council, 1980), p. 110-111.

The other adventures in tapestry that made up my enriching association with Edinburgh Tapestry Company were a wall hanging for Morgan Grenfell and a reworking in wool, in 1986, of a picture I had done for my book of Dante’s Inferno embodying his opening image of a dark wood (Una Selva Oscura). The largest undertaking were the tapestries for the Great Hall of St Catherine's College, Oxford which can be seen in the Works in Situ section of this site.

See also Benches in Paintings