Weaving, drawings/diagrams and the shape of a place

I decided to come to London a day early so I could visit the Anni Albers exhibition before it closes (and visit the Tate Modern which I’ve not been to for years).
If I can, I like to approach the Tate Modern Gallery on foot, crossing the river on Millennium Bridge from St. Paul’s. I enjoy the feeling of being suspended between the water and the sky. And I like to see how the city has changed. They have built glass towers since I last time I stood here – science-fiction skylines emerging.

Taken from floor 10 of Tate Modern

The first object encountered in the Anni Albers exhibition is a 12 shaft floor loom. It’s an imposing looking machine, but probably only because I’ve never used one. I do, however, understand the mechanism and I was delighted that the very last object in the show was an 8 shaft table loom, not too dissimilar to my own, that Albers used for her smaller weaving.

12 shaft loom

I was struck by the muted colours of the weaving, a limited number of basic colours mixing through various configurations of warp and weft to create shades, tones and tertiary colours.

Black White Yellow 1926/1965

I find this notion of the technique leading the work especially resonant. Of course, all art/craft practices are defined and confined by their processes and materials, but I always find work that brings this to the fore particularly fascinating. This exhibition is about the process of weaving.

“One of the most ancient crafts, hand weaving is a method of forming a pliable plane of threads by interlacing them rectangulary.”

Anni Albers – exhibition leaflet
Development in Rose II 1952 (close up)

The whole exhibition seemed to me to be about texture – surfaces and structures created by combining different materials, adding metal threads, using plastic and sticks, twisting the warps and wefts into knots and patterns… I just want to get to my loom and try some things out!

Red and Blue Layers, 1954 (close up)

One thing I did wonder with regard to Albers’ ‘floating thread technique’ is at what point a woven thread becomes a stitched thread? Generally we would say a stitch pierces a woven surface, but with counted thread embroidery techniques the needle (and hence the thread) goes between the warp and weft, so does the stitch then become part of the woven structure? And vice versa – if you are “adding surface threads to a basic weave”, isn’t that more like stitching? Perhaps it’s about WHEN in the process the additional threads are added? Does it even really matter?
(I’ll not even get into techniques like darning!)

Under Way 1963

What really fascinated me were Albers drawings, diagrams and sketches – the working out of designs and ideas. Quite beautiful drawings, but even more interesting if you know how to read the technical notes.
This is something I’ve been thinking about, that difference between a drawing and a diagram. All diagrams are drawings but not all drawings are diagrams.

diagram
NOUN
1: A simplified drawing showing the appearance, structure, or workings of something; a schematic representation.
1.1: Geometry A figure composed of lines that is used to illustrate a definition or statement or to aid in the proof of a proposition.
1.2: British A graphical schedule for operating railway locomotives and rolling stock in order to provide a desired service.
VERB
[WITH OBJECT]
1: Represent (something) in graphic form.
1.1: British Schedule the operations of (a locomotive or train) according to a diagram.
Origin
Early 17th century: from Latin diagramma, from Greek, from diagraphein ‘mark out by lines’, from dia ‘through’ + graphein ‘write’.

OED (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/diagram)

Implicit in the concept of a diagram is an assumption of prior knowledge on the part of the viewer/reader. In certain cases, there is an established method of creating diagrams so they can be read by another who is familiar with the conventions, e.g. circuit diagrams.
But there are also personal methods of creating diagrams, for example, when I am designing for laser cutting I rarely include dimensions for slots as I know the material thickness.
A diagram contains information, often in notation using accepted symbols, that is used to create or reference something beyond itself. It’s an abstract representation of a process.

diagram showing draft notation (plain weave), 1965

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s