Anna Ray’s work first came to the attention of many in 2017 when her vast eye-catching textile piece Margate Knot took centre stage at the exhibition ‘Entangled: Threads & Making’ at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, UK (see COVER 46). Focused on form and materiality, Ray’s artistic practice is pioneering yet highly accessible and joyful. She stitches, wraps and stuffs textiles, creating repeating patterns and enticing shapes in a bright palette. For 2021/2, the first major survey exhibition of her sculptural textile work is on at the St Albans Museum + Gallery.
‘Fibre and Form’ focuses on large-scale sculptural wall pieces created over the past twenty years and features two newly commissioned works entitled Mesh and Rosette, created during the pandemic. These sit alongside the previously mentioned three-dimensional tapestry Margate Knot—comprising two thousand multicoloured sewn elements—and other pieces such as the cheerful Bloom and the dichotomy that is Ribbon Chain.
Textile wall piece Rosette features repeated shapes that are wrapped and bound in brightly painted fabric. The artwork was inspired by Ray’s Huguenot ancestors who were silk weavers and manufacturers of fancy trimmings in Spitalfields during the 1700s. Mesh is more subdued in hue and takes its complex structure from the boning of 18th century clothing. All works are complex visual arrangements created through physical processes such as wrapping, stacking, layering, tying and connecting.
Anna Ray comments: ‘I want my pieces to float, gather or fall naturally—to be themselves, to become exquisite. I am interested in the exact qualities of the materials I work with, their subtleties, how they look and feel alongside each other, as much as in their overall visual effects. I want the work to be deep, not superficial. The qualities— weight, strength, weakness, drape—of the artwork as it develops tend to lead the way in terms of final install, so there is an element of problem solving until the very end of the process.’
Fibre and Form: Anna Ray
St Albans Museum + Gallery, Weston Gallery
Until 17 April 2022