The Student
Large multi-coloured tapestry hanging in a room of bricks with high ceiling and neon lamps
Christian Newby: ‘Boredom> Mischief>Fantasy>Radicalism>Fantasy’

Collective, a contemporary art space on Calton Hill, re-opened on May 13th with the exhibition Boredom>Mischief>Fantasy>Radicalism>Fantasy by artist Christian Newby. Featuring a large-scale tapestry inside the City Dome and a complementary newspaper, it is the perfect way to get back into experiencing art within an exhibition space and outside of our screens.

The exhibition features a nine-metre-wide textile, Flower-Necklace-Cargo-Net, which spans the inside of the building. The tapestry design is quite abstract and experimental, full of colours and sketchy shapes. There is a net which envelopes the whole piece, easy to be linked to feelings of constraint brought about by months in lockdown. 

The tapestry encapsulates what is so great about seeing art in person. To experience it in its own space, to examine the details, to try to step back and take it all in. There is a big difference between seeing a huge tapestry in a photograph and standing in front of it, captivated, not being able to give your attention to all its parts at once. It’s the seemingly little things too – hearing whispers from visitors on the other side of the tapestry, noticing light coming through the windows and into the textile, being able to walk all around it, study the way it’s been hung up from the ceiling…

Christian Newby repurposed an industrial carpet-tufting gun, a hand-held machine that stitches wool into a cloth, and used it as a mark-making tool to create the tapestry. 

The accompanying printed newspaper titled Ornaments & Crimes: An Operating Manual for Drawing with Carpet gives us an insight into his thought process: ‘This is a case study of equivalence, on thinking of something through something else: guns as pencils, carpet workshops as poems, textiles as platforms for conspiracy – as paper, as a document of the body.’

‘The domain of textile as material is most often limited to what we can see, touch and describe about a surface, but it is also a means of description in itself.’ Indeed, this piece of work questions conventional perceptions of textile, explores its position between art and craft, and pushes the boundary of how it can be used.

The newspaper also includes several mock-up drawings of the tapestry and detailed descriptions of the tools and techniques used to create it, as well as more lyrical accounts of Newby’s practice. It really feels like a window into the artist’s process, a peak behind the scenes of the creation of the final piece.

As the first exhibition after lockdown, it was certainly a good choice to display a large-scale tapestry that pushed visitors to re-learn how to engage with their surrounding space offering an immersive experience.

The exhibition runs until August 29th, and there is no need to book a space in advance.

Image: Christian Newby- Flower-Necklace-Cargo-Net
Image courtesy of Tom Nolan