Saturday, 9 July 2011

The African Queen - Woven Sculpture?

This is the project I conceived over a year ago and now, with the loom to do it on, I have started the long process of planning and trialing it - to do a loom-woven interpretation of this contemporary art painting. I love this painting, know the artist and how he developed his idea from sketches made whilst in Africa. This original hangs in my lounge and photographs can never do it simply glows; only a highly mercerised cotton or silk is likely to generate the same effect in fabric - "African Queen" is a 36" by 28" oil and acrylic on canvas by Steve Barker titled "The African Queen".
I do not want to try to copy it in woven cloth; I want to interpret it to suit the woven medium. Maybe it will be mixed materials; maybe it will incorporate other techniques than shaft-loom weaving. What I do know is that with only 8 shafts to work with, it has forced me to be more imaginative in finding a solution (but I like that).

I would love to see it on the old stone walls of the lounge beside Steve's original work.

I need a few weeks to really work up the detail but I am planning a background "canvas" in 1/3 twill to create the diagonal flow of the backdrop using a gold warp. Her exposed upper body and face will be woven within the twill; probably with pick-up sticks in a fine black silk so as not to bulk out the main weft. I want to create a 3-dimensional wall hanging, so the dress will be woven simultaneously on a second warp above the background; a fine, almost transparent gossamer weave with the dress woven as overshot on the remaining 4 shafts comes to mind. This will need to use a second, seperate reed and so the fell will have to remain slightly behind the main fell. By "dropping" this second warp strip back under the main cloth at the cleavage line, then "raising" it again at the start of the headress, the beautiful vibrant colours in the headress will be achived by weaving-in beading to a plain weave background (the second warp will have to have beading thread in the warp as well)
As I will be weaving this on my computerised Octado, it will need two programs running sequentially on the computer to control the dobby; one fot he twill and then, when I need to switch to weaving the overshot second warp of the dress, another program for this - but I have already trialed that aspect and that works brilliantly with no excuses!

I think I will do the wrist scarf and the tie on the head-dress as free-style; adding another dimension to the piece.

I have yet to decide how to hold the second fabric of the dress away from the backdrop, but I may sculpt a piece of african hardwood to put between the two fabrics, giving me the opportunity to create in 3-dimensions, the ample bosom which is such a feature of the painting.

I can't wait to start but I am going to trial the double warp/double reed first, then trial the gossamer weave with overshot, as I will be lucky to hit on the right set at the first attempt!!!!

In the meantine Gail (my wife) has pinched the loom as she is itching to have a go....will I ever get it back??????????????????

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