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Art Culture

Making Nuno exhibition review

Dovecot studios is currently hosting MAKING NUNO, showcasing the works of Sudō Reiko, innovative textile designer from Japan and design director of leading textile firm NUNO. A MUJI pop-up store runs alongside the exhibition. Quite different to most fine art textile exhibitions, this art exhibition attempts to show the creative process behind the designing and manufacturing of NUNO textiles.

This was my first exhibition in the flesh since the pandemic started. I have missed being in the physical space, and with minimalist slate tiles and focused lighting, Dovecot is beautiful and spacious, perhaps reflected in the rather steep entry fee to the exhibition. Five large installations in the first room demonstrate the production process of NUNO textiles with “art projections by leading technological designers”, as described on their website. In reality, each installation has an ordinary projector overhead that projects onto the displayed textile a manufacturing process– which doesn’t work too well with the spot lighting throughout the room. It was a little disappointing both in terms of visibility and what it actually was– if there were more ‘real’ elements than just a projection, it would be a lot more interesting and worth the price. In any case, however, MAKING NUNO attempts to delve into the creative process behind their textiles– how the ideas came about, how designs were made, and how different practical manufacturing processes worked.

I thought the second room was more promising, with a collage of 288 different NUNO textiles hung around the room in a way that, when the light filtered through, shadows were made of intricate patterns and prints. Sudo Reiko’s inspiration board of textiles, both including traditional Japanese textiles as well pieces from all over the world, added to the overwhelming array of colours. I had a short conversation with the curator of the gallery, Kate Grenyer, where she suggested that the people working in NUNO believe that this exhibition and their textiles have the “same level of integrity as fine art textiles”, even though NUNO textiles are generally used for commercial purposes.

The exhibition certainly blurred the lines between art and advertising– and having a pop-up store that has a very weak link to NUNO textiles didn’t really help. I’m not sure why Sudō being on the advisory board of MUJI had much to do with having an essentially random shop running alongside the exhibition. Of course, that didn’t stop me from buying things from there, so perhaps they know what they are doing!

As an art reviewer, I am wary of being too critical– the people working at Dovecot are lovely and having a chance to speak to the curator was really nice. Yet I left feeling not fully convinced that the design process behind manufacturing textiles for commercial use was ‘art’. Perhaps in Sudō’s next exhibition, demonstrations can have more reality to them (as I’m sure the world has had enough ‘virtual’), and maybe we’ll even see some of the pieces that these textiles are made into or how they are used.

[Image: Sudo Reiko Jelly Fish 1993.
Photo by Hayashi Masayuki]