Dovecot's major exhibition Scottish Women Artists features new commissions and contemporary works

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Dovecot's major exhibition Scottish Women Artists features new commissions and contemporary works
Sekai Machache and Dovecot Studios, Lively Blue, 2023. Tapestry, Handwoven, Cotton and linen. Woven by Ben Hymers.

EDINBURGH .- Dovecot is presenting major new artworks as part of their exhibition Scottish Women Artists: 250 Years of Challenging Perception with The Fleming Collection. The exhibition celebrates the works and contributions of women artists to the Scottish art scene across 250 years, including a new tapestry by Sekai Machache commissioned by Dovecot, and exciting works by contemporary Scottish artists Victoria Crowe, Rachel Maclean and Alberta Whittle.

Machache’s Lively Blue, commissioned by Dovecot for the exhibition, is based on an ink study by the Zimbabwean-Scottish artist, and was selected for the exhibition due to its reflection on the challenging colonial history of indigo. Machache, who has been selected to represent Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale 2024, is known for her photographic practice. The artist has more recently expanded to other media and approaches in order to create work which explores pre-colonial African spiritual practices, as well as Scottish culture and black Scottish identity. Lively Blue is Machache’s first collaboration with Dovecot; the tapestry was woven at Dovecot Studios and had its cutting off in April 2023.

After representing Scotland at Venice Biennale 2022, Barbadian-Scottish artist Alberta Whittle’s original watercolour design for her tapestry Entanglement is more than blood (2021/22) is being presented at Scottish Women Artists, on display for the very first time. The tapestry was designed as part of Whittle’s critically acclaimed exhibition at the Biennale, and was co-commissioned by Scotland + Venice and Dovecot, and has recently been acquired by National Galleries Scotland. The watercolour is imbued with the artist’s rich symbolism, including water and diamonds, intertwining with snake-like forms and white hands, signifying the insidious reach of Empire. The serpentine form refers to the deity Mami Wata (Mother Water), who was a powerful presence in the spiritual lives of enslaved African people and their descendants, in this symbolic and revealing artwork.

Rachel Maclean’s artworks on display are her striking rug set Save Mi and I’m Fine, inspired by pop culture, horror movies, video games and reality TV. This set of seemingly identical gun-tufted rugs is a dark representation of the mental health condition Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Body Dysmorphia). The main figure in the rugs is Maclean’s animated character Mimi, seen alongside ‘duck-rabbits’ and ‘horse-frogs’, creatures which symbolise revealed flaws. They are hung side by side and reveal a symbiotogram, where the phrase ‘I’m Fine’, upside down, is seen as ‘Save Mi’, illustrating the harsh realities of mental health disorders such as Body Dysmorphia. The rugs were created by Dovecot’s tufters Louise Trotter and Ben Hymer, working from digital images of Maclean’s designs, using synthetic fibres to give a more artificial and menacing manufactured appearance.

Scottish Women Artists includes Victoria Crowe’s tapestry Richer Twilight, Venice (2019) and her painting, from The Fleming Collection, Line of Trees. Richer Twilight, Venice is inspired by Crowe’s painting Twilight, Venice (2014) and was created in collaboration with Dovecot Studios to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Crowe’s artistic career. The tapestry is a meditation on Venice’s Byzantine palette and distinctive skyline, which evokes artistic comparison with Edinburgh. Dovecot weavers created a sumptuous interpretation of the original painting, capturing the fleeting subtleties of Venetian light.

These new and recent works by cutting edge contemporary artists are displayed alongside works by women artists from the last 250 years, including Catherine Read, the first woman who was formally trained as an artist in Scotland; Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, the first woman elected to both the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy; the Glasgow Girls – the first generation of women to be formally trained in the arts; 20th century artists Joan Eardley and Anne Redpath; and Joyce Cairns, the first female (and current) president of the Royal Scottish Academy. Dovecot and The Fleming Collection are showing more than 70 outstanding works by over 45 women artists who have challenged and shaped the Scottish art scene, pioneers who fought prejudice and sexism to forge careers in the art world, highlighting these key women artists who have changed society’s view of what women should and could do over the last three centuries.

Since the tapestry studios were founded in 1912, Dovecot has established a long history of collaborating with ground-breaking artists including David Hockney, Frank Stella, Chris Ofili and more recently Rachel Mclean and Alberta Whittle. Inspired by the themes of the exhibition of celebrating women artists, and continuing their strong tradition of commissioning new work, Dovecot Studios has commissioned a number of new works for future exhibitions by Victoria Crowe, Alberta Whittle and more, with details to be announced. The new work can also be seen in the context of the Dovecot tapestry studio itself, where visitors have an opportunity to watch Dovecot artists and master weavers making work between 12pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am – 5pm on Saturdays.

One of the new works is a tapestry recently cut from its loom by Alberta Whittle, created at Dovecot and based on Dame Elizabeth Blackadder’s Flowers and Black Cat (1976). The tapestry has been on show in Edinburgh at The Scottish Gallery ahead of Scottish Women Artists. Blackadder was the first woman elected to both the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy, and her watercolour Still Life with a Japanese Kite (1980), is also on display in Scottish Women Artists.

Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot, says, Tapestry is one of the oldest and richest fine art mediums. As a contemporary studio, Dovecot is keen to encourage knowledge and understanding of our creative process. This summer’s Scottish Women Artists exhibition has provided fresh stimulus for us to create work with a new generation of artists. Exploring issues from the environment and sustainability, to colonial history and self-image, it is exciting to see tapestry being developed as both medium and message.

Dovecot is a world-renowned tapestry studio in the heart of Edinburgh and a landmark centre for contemporary art, craft, and design. Established in 1912, Dovecot continues a century-long heritage of collaboration with international artists to make exceptional and engaging works of art. Dovecot Studios undertakes public and private textile commissions, with major tapestry projects including collaborations with Chris Ofili, Alison Watt, and Garry Fabian Miller. Also specialising in handcrafted rugs, Dovecot has worked with various artists such as Linder, Jim Lambie, and Nicolas Party. Occupying an extraordinary building, formerly Victorian baths, Dovecot also has an engaging programme of exhibitions and events, which expand the conversation around art, craft, and design.

The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation owes its existence to the formation of the finest collection of Sottish art outside public institutions, comprising over 600 works from the seventeenth century to the present day. The Collection dates back to 1869 when investment in partnership with the bank Robert Fleming & Co began to acquire Scottish art to hang in its offices worldwide to reflect its Dundonian roots. Following the sale of the bank in 2000, the Collection was vested in the Foundation. Today, the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation is endowed to care for and enhance the Collection and to promote an understanding and awareness of Scottish art and creativity through a programme of cultural diplomacy, touring exhibitions, individual loans, events, publishing and education.

Scottish Women Artists: 250 Years of Challenging Perception
July 28th, 2023 - January 6th, 2024

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