Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! (4 stars)

Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop!

Archie Brennan: Muhammad Ali, 1973

Tapestry's possibilities are unveiled in this often satirical Pop Art collection

There's a sense of mission to Dovecot Studios' pandemic-delayed retrospective on the life and work of the late Edinburgh artist Archie Brennan, as though delivering a show precisely like this was exactly why the place was founded. That many reading this might never have heard of Brennan is forgivable, although it's advisable to change that with a visit to Tapestry Goes Pop!.

A comprehensive, involving and playful show, it paints a vivid picture of Brennan through what he did, balancing the unfashionableness of tapestry with the excitement of his life. A young contemporary of Sean Connery, he became an apprentice weaver just after the Second World War, and 15 years later became both artistic director of Dovecot Studios (then based in Corstorphine) and the founder of the tapestry course at Edinburgh College Of Art. Later, he lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and New York.

Early in his career, Brennan fused tapestry weaving with Pop Art, for example in his pixelated image of Muhammad Ali. He plays with text formally, by representing the words 'Fold' or 'Fade' in appropriately shaped or colour-graded woven images. These works are personal artistic visions, but commissions like his large, vividly-coloured wall-hanging map of Midlothian for the council's office, or a crucifix which belongs to Jordanhill Parish Church combine beauty with function.

Ties and tablecloths are fixed to shaped pieces of wood to create 3D-relief effects, while his fascination with dry, suited male bankers and sportscasters in the art history-referencing 'A Full Meeting Of Members Of The Board' (1989) and 'American Gotham' (1995) is veiled satire. 'Twelve Postcards One Image' (2000) is modestly ingenious, a set of 12 small tapestries which form a nude picture whose mailing as a single piece would have been illegal in America. Combined, these pieces shed a new light on tapestry's possibilities.

Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop!, Dovecot Studios, until Monday 30 August, 10am–5pm (Monday–Saturday), £9.50 (£8.50); advance booking required.

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Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop!

  • 4 stars

Dovecot Studios Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! tells the story of Edinburgh native Archie Brennan (1931-2019) in the first major retrospective exhibition of his work. Bringing together over 80 tapestries as well as archive material, this is a chance to delve into the world of a master of modern tapestry. Sharp, witty…