A series of four gun tufted rugs designed by artist Than Clark and created at Dovecot by Jonathan Cleaver and Dennis Reinmueller will soon be complete and making their way to the art fair BASEL in Liste open from 17 to 22 June 2014.
The set of four luxurious rugs, each measuring 1.3 × 2 metres in black, dark blue and white yarn with leather and wool braided tassels and fringing are to be draped over oak and brass commissioned stands made in Berlin, ranging in height from 1.8 to 3 metres. The rugs are hand-tufted and the fringes are made by Cleaver using an inkle loom. The rugs were inspired by the death fantasies of Bruce Chatwin and form part of an installation at BASEL by the artist, which include a set of illustrative glass panels relating to Chatwin’s unpublished story Rotting Fruit and photographs of Henry James with an alleged boyfriend. James was a key figure in 19th century literary realism. Clark spent an intensive period of time producing monochrome drawings as designs for the rugs before working collaboratively with Cleaver and Reinmueller, from the beginning of 2014, to realise the concept.
Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) was a travel writer and novelist. In 1972 he began writing for the Sunday Times Magazine as an art and architecture advisor. His articles on international travel and interviews were erudite and entertaining – he was renowned for his storytelling abilities. He won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel On the Black Hill (1982). He was described by his friend, literary journalist and biographer Nicholas Shakespeare as being “less economical with the truth than spendthrift. He tells not a half-truth but a truth and a half”. Chatwin died at the age of 48 in a hospital in Nice from AIDS. He attempted to conceal his symptoms from others and his delusional explanations as to how he contracted the disease are fantastical. Clark makes particular reference to two stories which have inspired his designs for the rugs:
“Last year I got very interested in Bruce Chatwin’s death fantasies. When he became HIV positive he made up all these stories about what was going on. These rugs are about two of Chatwin’s fantasies: that he ate an infected bit of killer whale on the shore of Arabia with some princesses, and they all got sick; that he was in a bat cave in Java and inhaled bat guano and that was why he had a tropical illness that no one else had. In terms of the imagery, I wanted them to look a little like late 19th century Bonnard posters. I am committed to defending Chatwin. After he died, some people said he was just a stylist and he lied. Actually sometimes I think it is important to lie, because the world can be so boring. “
Jonathan Cleaver adds “there is an element of self-fiction, and there is a link to the queer experience of existing in a culture which is different from you so you have to make yourself up and fictionalise your way of being.”
In addition to building a unique and common understanding of the subject matter, Cleaver and Clark have developed an interest in each other’s chosen medium. With each project, they have attempted to test the boundaries of creativity and play with what the process allows. Clark comments: “When I did these drawings this time around, I could think about what he (Cleaver) would do with them. I knew how to in-build the surface effects that will translate well in to the carpet. Sometimes it is interesting to go against what the thing can do aswell”.
Cleaver and Clark began collaborating in the autumn of 2010 prior to Clark’s graduation from Goldsmiths. Clark was keen to produce an interior textile item, and on hearing about the For I.H. rug created at Dovecot with artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz for his exhibition at Inverleith House, Edinburgh, he approached the Studios and the allegiance was formed. Prior to this rug project with Clark, Dovecot created Konnigratz/Hamichuri/Konnigratz/Hamichuri, a gilded stucco ceiling in hand-tufted carpet medium, positioned on the floor as part of the artist’s exhibition Waves at Matthew Gallery, Berlin in 2013.
Clark was born in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1981. He lives and works in London and Hamburg. In 2007 he graduated from University of Edinburgh with BA (HSS) and in 2011 from Goldsmiths College, London with a BA (Hons), and in 2012 enrolled at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts), Hamburg to study a MFA in Time Based Media. He has exhibited in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Bonn, London and Rotterdam. Clark is represented by Matthew Gallery in Berlin.