Evening Shifts by Rebecca Zander

A Question of Language by Pat Taylor 

 Sometimes the extraordinary happens; images and words meet. Rebecca Zanker sent this poem to me after spending time with two of my tapestries: Aboriginal and Liv. I was deeply moved.

Evening Shifts

Echoes of laughter in the bar,
footsteps loud across the oak,
fringes on a lampshade
feathered, soft by stone,
a river of tawny yew under the hand.

Across this passing place, three eyes
seeing beyond what is here:
one, luminous, staring,
live from green shadows;
a fourth eye, often unseen, a shadow itself.

Now, alone,
in the darkness of a northern night
a son tries to live his days
when each dawn cuts bright.
Ripped from the rib, an ache of love lurches his way.

A niece - no longer a niece
a 'nephew'-
is going to a school,
the school of a sister

being written out of memory.

Somewhere, a birth mother ages in a Scottish valley,
alone -
outliving her one-time, one hour daughter
handed over to others
to love
to live
to die.

Woven in cross threads, we hold each other
and tear apart
shaded forever from our joined selves
and the watcher's gaze.

Rebecca Zanker 3.12.12
With thanks to Pat Taylor,
Aboriginal and Liv,
West Dean College


Recently I was asked by Journalist for a quote, referring particularly to the tapestry Artemis which is on show in the exhibition, Finding the Unicorn, Tapestries Mythical and Modern at the Fleming Collection, London, 17 April – 1 June 2013.

 'Over the years I have come to appreciate the nature of working in the darkSuch a methodology can create problems when it comes to articulating meaning and it may be of interest to the viewer to hear that though clarity of intention is always at the root of the developing tapestry, the accumulation of time plays a significant part. Artemis for example is preoccupied with colour and its relationship with the tactile and in the final analysis, changing light. In its making, the work is both detailed and repetitious; in its showing there are glimpses of the ordinary, quietly telling a story which I hope has a universal resonance.'

Journalist (J): “Re the quote Artemis, but there are parts of it which I don't understand and wonder if you can please clarify them?”  Can you tell me what you mean by working in the dark - do you mean spontaneously without planning ahead, or in dim lighting?

PT I work within set constraints, for example, warp and weft setting, a colour way, a bottom to top building production process and ‘map’ of the face. However within this framework there are moment-by-moment decisions, both controlled and serendipitous, which shape the outcome. These moment-by-moment decisions take place over a period of three to six months depending on the size of the tapestry and once I have woven over any given detail it is permanently there. I cannot change it. It is a risk taking process, which I believe gives the tapestry liveliness, over what could be a very turgid outcome. Until the tapestry is finished I will not know if it has worked- in other words it is like working in the dark for six months.

   The best way to describe the production is to think in terms of going for a walk in your native landscape, you know it, but you are constantly coming across new and exciting details to explore. 

J Can you explain how the colour - do you have a name for this, by the way, would you call it cyan? – Has a relationship with the tactile and changing light?

PT Tapestry weaving unlike painting is tactile. It absorbs light rather than reflects it. This characteristic has to be managed and used effectively. Over the years of working on the Henry Moore tapestries in the workshop with overhead skylights, the nuances of changing light throughout the day created an ever-changing tapestry surface. Painting does not have that possibility. So when I select and dye my palette of wool I am constantly aware that I want the tapestry to be seductive in the daylight, in the sunshine, on a cloudy day, in the fading light and so on. For me a tapestry is an ever changing object. It is not like a poster for example. Its physical characteristics mirror the imagery I build into the tapestry – in the case of Artemis – strength in vulnerability – it seems to be ‘this’ but actually its ‘that’…

   In Artemis I have used complementary colours in any given weft, this splits the bead, reducing the optical weight of condensed wool whilst intensifying the hue.

J How does the accumulation of time play a part? Also you talk about a story which you hope has a universal resonance - can you explain what you mean by this story?

PT The act of weaving for me can be divided into two parts- the rhythmic and the problem solving. When creating the idea on paper (see original attached – it is tiny, 20 cms wide and black and white, in contrast with the tapestry which is 180cms wide and coloured), I want areas where I can weave meditatively, and other areas where I have to weave on my toes, metaphorically speaking – the problem solving is so exciting. So putting it simply I have large plain areas and small detailed cameos.  

   I have listened to many stories, I guess I am seeped in other peoples’ stories – the image comes out of that seeping. Artemis is anyone who has felt vulnerable but had to be strong. 

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 21 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.): "Of the daughters of Koios . . . Leto had relations with Zeus, for which she was hounded by Hera all over the earth. She finally reached Delos and gave birth to Artemis, who thereupon helped her deliver Apollon. Artemis became a practised huntress and remained a virgin." Artemis just born and vulnerable found strength to deliver her twin brother.

Pat Taylor