British textile artist Anna Ray will present a selection of her works in a free exhibition (until 1 October 2021) at 99 Bishopsgate and Aldgate Tower in the City of London.
Inspired by Ray’s Huguenot ancestors who settled in Spitalfields as textile makers in the 17th century, the exhibition On Tenterhooks will explore the past and present of textile making. Central to the exhibition will be Ray’s award-winning artworks ‘Capture’ and ‘Weave’, which will be shown in public for the first time. They were acquired by Brookfield Properties as a gift for the Crafts Council Primary Collection as part of the Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award 2021.
Anna Ray won the Award, a major UK prize for craft, for her ability to express energy, joy and reflection through these sculptural and colourful works, which were made during and straight after the first UK Covid-19 lockdown and were presented virtually by House on Mars Gallery during the Crafts Council’s 2021 digital edition of Collect: International art fair for contemporary craft and design. Ray was awarded the Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award for the scale of the work and the context in which it was created.
On Tenterhooks will be displayed across two Brookfield Properties venues – 99 Bishopsgate and Aldgate Tower – which both occupy space where the London textile industry was based, evidenced in street names such as North, South, East and West Tenter Street, and Threadneedle Street. Across Spitalfields and Aldgate in the 18th Century, large areas of open land called tenter grounds were needed to stretch and dry woven and dyed cloth on rows of wooden frames, edged with sharp tenter hooks, to catch along the selvedge of the fabric. The exhibition will delve into Anna’s own roots in this area, where her Huguenot ancestors lived and worked as textile makers.
99 Bishopsgate – the present
Each exhibition location has lead works that set the scene. 99 Bishopsgate will focus on the present; showcasing how textiles can respond to the needs of our contemporary life and express current-day emotions. Led by the works Weave and Capture, each made during lockdown, the works in this location are bold, bright, and energetic. They aim to spark energy and joy of coming back together again.
Other works in this location will include an installation of Ray’s well-known, colourful Margate Knot, which she created with the help of a community of female assistants. Also on display will be Stripe and Bloom, textile sculptures with organic forms inspired by flowers that express our longing for nature, and Pointillist, an adaptable assemblage of bright dotted sticks which can be displayed in any form.
Aldgate Tower – the past
The works on show at Aldgate Tower focus on the traditions of textile making, manufacture and industry, drawing on Anna Ray’s personal family connections to both trade and place. The exhibition will be led by the Off-cut series, which Ray created when she was artist in resident at carpet company Forbo as part of the National Festival of Making in Blackburn, Lancashire in 2019. The artworks reference the materials and machinery used for carpet tile manufacture, resulting in a group of works that reimagine the making process and the materials of the industrial process.
Also on display will be Madame Bovary, which has never been shown in the UK before. The work illustrates how textile art can tell stories. The artwork mirrors the faith of Emma Bovary, central character of Gustave Flaubert’s famous novel from 1856. After she dies from swallowing arsenic, Madame Bovary’s body is dressed and moved, her dress stained by black spills from her mouth. Ray cleverly visualises the scene, using pink silk organza which has been dipped in black gloss paint that slowly unravels, mirroring the unravelling of Bovary’s character whilst referencing textile history with the stripe reminiscent of striped silk taffeta used in dress making during that period.
Anna Ray – textile artist and winner of the Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award 2021, said: “One of my ancestors was a French refugee who settled in Spitalfields in 1740, at the age of 27. Pierre Hoinville was a journeyman weaver, and he lived and wove in his home on Sclater Street in the heart of Spitalfields in the East End of London. Amongst the regenerated, gentrified developments, there are some weavers’ houses still standing there today - sooty, dilapidated and covered in graffiti.
"I am moved to be able to exhibit my work so close to where Pierre and his descendants lived. Pierre’s great-grandson George Hoinville was a ‘Fancy Trimmings’ manufacturer, who by 1826 owned a factory and 36 Houses in Bethnal Green, where the makers he employed lived and worked. The exhibition title ‘On Tenterhooks’ refers to my creative ancestors, the use of materials and processes within my artwork, and my excitement about showing the works ‘Capture’ and ‘Weave’ which were recently acquired by Brookfield Properties for the Crafts Council Collection. Winning the Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award has been a joy and a privilege.”