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The use of Allegory, the symbolic representation of moral or political meaning, is part of the conceptual tradition of tapestry design, as is the use of provocative contrast. Jon Eric Riis of the USA skillfully draws on tapestry’s history to give voice to contemporary conflicts. He evokes tense and disturbing contrasts, beauty/ horror, decoration / dissonance and innocence and the potential of evil. The three figures that make up the tapestry installation Babes in Arms (figure 3) are richly dressed. Are they prepared for a ceremony or a sacrifice, are they passive or aggressive, armed or disarming, real or illusionary? The title of Jon Eric Riis’s tapestry also creates a double meaning. The allegory in this tapestry installation seems to pull us into a shockingly contemporary setting where all is ambiguous, and contradictory. An allegory for our time, one that reflects its multiple meanings through the perceptions and reaction of the viewer.

Jon Eric Riis, Babes in Arms

In Stoff meines (deutschen) Lebens (Fabric of my (German) Life) (figure 4) Thomas Cronenberg of Germany employs repetitive and decorative elements and the evidence of surface pattern that suggests fabric/cloth. The title seems to emphasize this intent by referencing a multitude of association between fabric and cloth and the body and life cycles. The very structure of the weaving process seems to reflect the content. It is structured and ordered, interconnected but also disconnected, and full of subtle shifts, openings and rifts. I am reminded of pre-Hispanic Huari period tapestry tunics where symbols and structure seem to elude to a symbolic and cryptic language. Meaning is implied but difficult to decipher like a code. I find I am compelled to travel over and through this work repeatedly, examining it closely.

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