What’s So Funny?
Tapestry is thought of as a serious discipline, historically used to impress its audience by showing the might, taste and prestige of its owners. Or it could cow viewers into submission by frightening them with images of the Apocalypse, suggesting that they should turn from sin.
However, in the modern era, some tapestry weavers have used humour and wit to make different points. In Edinburgh, Archie Brennan loved to make jokes, often at his own expense, for example by contrasting the slow nature of the process of weaving with the amount of time the viewer might spend appreciating the joke.
Fiona Mathison followed in his footsteps. With A Clean Sheet, she used actual textiles, coupled with tapestry weaving to create a washing line with its own shadows and a sheet covered with three-dimensional flies.
Pat Taylor specialises in portraits, but not ones that flatter the subject. She has depicted people from Kim Jong-Un to Vladimir Putin. Her portrait of Boris Johnson is as finely drawn and delicate as her other work, but it adds a touch of caricature to the familiar face. The pink lips that match the shirt are pure genius.
Pat Taylor, Boris, 30 x 40 cm
I have carried on this tradition in a couple of ways. I sometimes work in paper, which can be considered a textile since it is made of fibres, to make a political point. With my piece, Holiday Brochures, I thought up tours for five groups: The Tough on Crime, Real Men, Capitalists, Christians and Patriots. The lucid brochures for the fictional holiday company, Exploits Holidays (’a unique experience for the discriminating traveller’), allow, for example, the capitalists to see examples of how they could hire workers where there are few regulations about health and safety and working hours or the tough on crime to see grim prison facilities in Russia and Saudi Arabia.
A recent piece was more light-hearted. 3D Wallpaper Sample, uses artificial flowers, sourced from charity shops, and map pins to create wallpaper similar to that available, albeit in only two dimensions, from the designer outlet, Cath Kidson. It is a type of design that is definitely not to my taste, so I took it to its nth degree to emphasise its kitsch qualities.
Does humour work better than, say, paint? I don’t know. But it does work.