Scottish Opera commissions Dovecot to create tapestry for Theatre Royal with artist Alison Watt

20 December 2013

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Scottish Opera commissions Dovecot to create tapestry for Theatre Royal with artist Alison Watt

Dovecot Studios and Scottish Opera are working in partnership for the first time. Scottish Opera has commissioned prominent artist Alison Watt to create a new design for a major new tapestry to be woven in collaboration with Dovecot Studios. The completed tapestry will hang over sweeping new walls connecting the old theatre royal with the new foyer spaces currently under construction in Glasgow.

The project is being led by Dovecot Master Weaver Naomi Robertson and will be the first full scale tapestry project Junior Weaver Freya Sewell will have the opportunity to weave following the completion of her 3 year apprenticeship training this autumn. Alison Watt has collaborated with Naomi Robertson and Dovecot to create the tapestry based on her design. Work on sample making, colour choosing and artist collaboration began in January this year with weaving beginning in August 2013. This is the first time Alison Watt has worked in tapestry. The tapestry design called ‘Butterfly’ uses striking yellows, pinks and golds with the artist taking inspiration from an obi, the sash worn as part of a Japanese kimono.

Alison Watt on the inspiration for ‘Butterfly’ “I was very aware of Madama Butterfly playing an important role in the history of Scottish Opera. It was the first opera Sir Alexander Gibson conducted for Scottish Opera and also his last. It was one of his favourite operas. I had wanted to create a piece which echoed the great drama and atmosphere experienced through live performance and from the beginning Madama Butterfly has always been my inspiration. It’s a work which has such an impact on the senses and I wanted to create an emotional landscape with my work; to find a way to evoke the powerful themes of love and loss which pour from Puccini’s masterpiece. I was particularly influenced by the music of the overwhelming climax of Act 2 when Cio Cio takes her fate into her own hands. This is such a startling scene visually, but also one of melancholic and majestic beauty musically. When I was shown an exquisite silk obi by Scottish Opera Head of Costume, John Liddell , the design for my idea began to take shape in my mind. I envisage the design as being vertical in order to be seen from each level of the new building.”

Naomi Robertson spoke about the collaborative process “It is always extremely exciting to create a new piece of work in collaboration with an artist; and working so closely with someone of Alison’s calibre on a new design, created specifically for tapestry, has been particularly rewarding. The sampling process, where we worked together in intensifying the colour choices, took us a number of months and it was a creative challenge to find the most suitable technique for the weaving itself that could achieve seamless gradation of colour. The fact that the medium was somewhat unfamiliar to Alison meant we had a particularly close working relationship, learning from each other’s practices and making creative choices collaboratively. The challenge of representing Watt’s dynamic yet beautiful design has been a career high”.

General Director of Scottish Opera Alex Reedijk said “I was keen to commission an artwork for the new foyers which would showcase the work of Scottish artists, in a medium that would be in sympathy with the old and the new architecture, and echo the artisan skills that are central to the performing arts. Tapestry is a rich and tactile traditional artform, created by weavers who have such a deep understanding of their craft, and is the perfect bridge between the 21st century natural materials of the new foyers and the 19th century lush, gilded interior of the auditorium.”

David Weir Director of Dovecot Studios commented “Alison Watt’s Butterfly is Dovecot tapestry at its best, drawing together many rich ingredients: a beautiful new architectural space; a commissioner with a vision for art as integral to the experience of the Theatre Royal; and a large scale tapestry borne of an intelligent and thoughtful collaboration between an internationally established artist Alison Watt and Dovecot’s Master Weaver Naomi Robertson and her team. A wonderful experience that has resulted in new directions for both artist and weavers and promises a powerful and dramatic tapestry, full of subtle gradations of colour and texture, to celebrate the new-look Theatre Royal Glasgow in 2014; the fruits of a year-long project that will be enjoyed by visitors for many years to come.”

The tapestry will take approximately 9 months to weave and will be woven by up to 3 weavers at any one time.

The tapestry dimensions are approximately 5.6m X 4.2m

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