Inspiration, textile artist - Hannah Ryggen

A shopping trip to Oxford a good excuse to develop a new year intention, to do more textile art - that is a surprise! Hannah Ryggen, Woven Histories, Modern Art Oxford

HR Ethiopia occupation by Italy

I woke on 30th December and totally ignoring the state of the house post Christmas I knew I had to visit Modern Art Oxford, I had meant to visit a few weeks back when meeting friends for lunch but was delayed. My effort to get up and go was rewarded in spades.

I never enter galleries the right way, so I started exploring in the collaborative project space. In this room were a range of books on weaving, spinning and dyeing and also some large pieces where you were invited to make your creative contribution. I am now itching to weave a picture, I added some hair to a girl in one of the pictures forming a triptychand I couldn't resist weaving some jersey in and out of the huge den created with strings stretched from wall to floor where visitors have created a woven hide away suitable of little visitors to rest and read! I need one in my home!


HR Family

I found the colours and images in the early work to be very much influenced by her rural life, the horse in the tapestry above is reminiscent of the one I stitched as a Christmas gift, how she achieved such detail in woven tapestry I have no clue. I watched a short film while there of Hannah weaving, she didn't draw her designs ahead, she worked from her head and most certainly from her heart.

The colours she used were mostly her own hand dyed colours, using natural dyes and spinning her own wool. She must have been a hard worker to do so much, some of these panels are huge!

Hitler and Churchill

Her work became more political and heart felt, her life difficult, her husband detained by the Nazis during the war, her daughter unwell with Epilepsy - her pain and determination was visible in various pieces. This exhibition brought tears to my eyes, this woman wanted to speak in thread about the injustice in the world, about the daily fights in her life and about the love she had, if that was her goal, she achieved it.

The subtle colours of the piece Ethiopia were particularly interesting to me, as the muted pallet seemed to reflect the desert but also didn't remove the colourful nature of Africa, the contrast and strength was clear without a bright colour in sight. I was also interested to hear that the portion with Mussolini pictured had been folded back during earlier exhibitions in Europe to save embarrassing the Italian visitors.

HR love

My absolute favourite in the exhibition is Mother's Heart from 1947. It sang to me about Hannah's love for her daughter but also of the power of all women, I saw a depiction of feminine strength in all its glory - maybe, on reflection, it was this one that moved me to tears !

If you get a moment to visit Modern Art Oxford before February 18th - do it, the gallery is signposted from the new Westgate where you can also appreciate a rather nice alternative view of the dreaming spires from the upper deck!

So I left the gallery and returned to the bustle of the streets full of shoppers grabbing a bargain, I spent my voucher in John Lewis on a very beautiful lamp which I intend to help with my textile projects in 2018 - I will be weaving some sort of picture this year and that is a promise, I have been inspired.

poster ISE Jan 2018

An addition to this blog post - I have just been sent over details of an upcoming exhibition over in Rugby, I hope to be able to squeeze in a visit while it is open from next weekend until 25th January 2018 - well worth a visit too, if you can.