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Weaving together a history of textiles in the Art Bank collection

This past spring I was invited to speak at the Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild about the Art Bank textile collection. This prompted me to explore how the Art Bank has collected textiles over its 45 year history—and led me to many fascinating discoveries along the way.

There are over 150 fibre based works in the Art Bank collection valued at more than a million dollars. Our first textile works were acquired in 1972—including works by Isolde Savage, An Whitlock and Guerite Steinbacher—and we have consistently acquired textile based works since then.

My presentation to the Guild focused on 42 artworks by 24 artists. I chose these artists to demonstrate changes in style and sophistication over the Bank’s 46 year collecting history. Many of the artists in the collection participated in the prestigious International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland, an important Biennial that took place between 1962 and 1995. The Biennial chronicled the evolution of textile art in the context of the history of modern and contemporary art.

Here are some of my favorite textile artists, and their works, in the Art Bank collection:

  • Charlotte Lindgren. Lindgren creates woven sculptural and architectural pieces such as Black Cylinder Series and Tambaran. Her work was also featured in Expo 67’s Canadian Fine Crafts exhibition.

Charlotte Lindgren, Black Cylinder Series (1970)

  • Micheline Beauchemin. Beauchemin is the recipient of many important awards, including the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas, the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and an Officer of the Order of Canada. The Art Bank owns only one work by Beauchemin: Ailes No. 4, which is woven with reflective silver threads that change according to the light.

Micheline Beauchemin, Ailes No.4 (1968)

  • Karen Chapnick. I’ve always enjoyed Chapnick’s work—particularly the dyed sisal pieces in our collection including Colour Puzzle and Forest Light. The individual pieces of sisal are hand dyed and then a variety of colours are braided together to create customized variations throughout. The work creates soft patterning that can be appreciated for long periods of intense visual investigation—perfect for an office setting where you’re in need of quiet contemplation.

Karen Chapnick, Colour Puzzle (1977)

There are also a number of tapestries in the collection that were produced in collaboration between Inuit artists and weavers of the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung. I particularly enjoy the collaborative work by artist Elisapee Ishulutaq and weaver Igah Etoangat that depicts a mother and daughter in an igloo from 1992.

The Canada Council Art Bank textiles are part of a rich history. Explore these and other textile works in our collection online—or contact one of our consultants to talk about how you can bring a part of this history into your work space.

About the Author:  Amy Jenkins

Amy Jenkins is the Head of the Canada Council Art Bank. She is responsible for the management of the Art Bank’s operations and delivery of its programs including: art rental, loans, exhibitions and outreach activities.


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