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Magdalena Abakanowicz at the Tate

Hello friends,

There are exceptions that prove every rule; for instance that raisins should under no circumstances be found in hot food, unless it’s a baked good such as a scone, in which case they are essential. We went to see the Magdalena Abakanowicz exhibition at the Tate last week. Now under normal circumstances I can’t bear woven, hairy, itchy looking anything, but her work is the exception. I’ve loved it since I came across it in a book about 20 years ago, but I’ve never seen any of the pieces in person before. I’ve got Amelie in most of these photos so you get a feel for the scale of it all.

The exhibition begins with a room of her wall pieces including this one. See what I mean about the scale, quite big and quilt-like I thought. Colour palette really appeals to me, you can’t beat black, red and a bit of white can you?

Have a look at a close up, see what I mean about the texture? There literally are hairy bits. In theory it shouldn’t be OK!

Alongside the woven hangings were some of her works on paper which involved collage and ink. Nice to see the direct correlation.

A long, long time ago I made a quilt called Surrounded which referenced Abakanowizc’s work, specifically a piece called Black Environment which is similar to some of the 3D pieces which hang from the ceiling here. The idea of my quilt was that it peeled away from the wall and enveloped the viewer. It curved around and there was just enough room for someone to stand in the space. Seeing these reminded me that that was quite an interesting idea that I ought to think about again.

You’re going to have to take my word for it when I talk about how much presence these have. It’s like walking in a forest of huge ancient trees, except maybe a bit more foreboding, perhaps at night when everyone’s gone home they might move, that sort of thing.

In my own work I’m interested in how some things can at the same time be threatening but also protective, like a thorny hedge that keeps humans and animals where they need to be, but also provides a home to small creatures and birds. These Abakans have that same intimidating structure as a tall thorny hedge, but also that you could go inside and they’d keep you out of the wind and cold. I quite enjoy that idea of friend or foe, that everything isn’t as obvious as it might seem.

I was really pleased that I was able to catch this exhibition before it closed. There’s still a bit of time to see it if you are nearby – the info is on the Tate website.

Bye for now,

Laura x

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3 thoughts on “Magdalena Abakanowicz at the Tate

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. My son is in London at the moment for the Marathon and sent me about this exhibition.

    1. Good luck to him for the marathon!

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