Joan Baxter’s Statement
Recent winters have been exceptional and the visual and physical experiences gained from them were quite overwhelming. Familiar complex landscapes were reduced to monochrome, simplified and transformed by the snow. To me these winters had a magical, dreamlike quality out of normal time, a stark, cruel time but also an incredibly beautiful and otherworldly time, a time when we were cut off from the outside world in our frozen universe of dazzling whiteness. Calligraphic webs of bird and animal tracks, lunar patterns on the ice of the frozen river and silent, starving red deer slipping like ghosts between the trees. The three tapestries shown here are expressions of this time.
The White Boat of Winter, woven sideways as a kind of visual diary, is sourced from a collection of my photographs very roughly collaged together. This allowed several different phases of the passage of winter to be contained in the one composition. I hit on the idea of using the boat traveling through time quite late on in the weaving of the tapestry but included it anyway even though it had to be shoehorned into the composition and is in some ways quite strange and uncomfortable – but then the winter was also strange and uncomfortable. I’m especially excited by this risky ‘seat-of-the-pants’ working style – when I start a big tapestry that will require an enormous investment of time without much idea of where it will end up. I like going through lots of changes of mind and evolutions during the weaving and having to have faith in my subconscious to pull it all together at the very last minute…maybe.
Winter River and Short Thaw are further explorations of ideas born during the weaving of White Boat.
Joan Baxter’s Biography
After studying tapestry at Edinburgh College of Art and Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts during the 1970s, Baxter spent eight years working as a weaver and trainer in commercial tapestry studios in the UK and Australia, notably working on the Henry Moore tapestries at West Dean Tapestry Studio. She has been an independent tapestry artist since 1987, regularly exhibiting her work in solo and group shows. Among her many commissioned works are pieces for churches, corporate and private clients.
Moving to the far north of Scotland in 2000 to the place that has inspired so much of her output, marked a new chapter in Baxter’s personal work. A Scottish Arts Council Personal Development Grant in 2002/3 allowed her to expand into less traditional approaches to her medium. Although continuing to weave tapestries in the narrative style that she is known for, she now also makes more experimental pieces alongside them. Her imagery has become more abstract, the interpretation more deliberately weaverly, and the materials more varied. This has resulted in a collection of work that pushes boundaries but does not compromise the beauty and expressive power of the traditional tapestry form.