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Katharine Swailes

Date: December 3, 2020 Category:

Memory and reflection, are important with Katharine Swailes abstract colour studies in handwoven tapestry.
Working intuitively with colour, Katharine reflects on a childhood in the texture and colour of a rich
Cumbrian landscape, time spent exploring and walking with her parents (an artist and a local
historian) observing land traces, flora and fauna. All these have informed the artist’s approach to observation.
Now living and working in the Sussex countryside these tapestries are inspired by the landscape and
the meditative activity of weaving. The abstract image is arrived at by implementing a minimal
number of processes to create the image, the subtle colour enhanced by carefully blended wool
weft yarns.
The wool and cotton materials lead Katharine’s approach to these colourfield tapestries and are
constructed from hand-dyed worsted wools. This fibre is a central part of the artist’s life now, as it was in
childhood. These long connections help her focus inward to a slowing meditative process of
handwoven tapestry. Drawing from a limited supply of wool yarns, newly dyed yarn supplement
and bring together this woollen palette. Dyeing is an important part of her practice, creating colour
families for each project. On this series, the artist introduces one strand of bamboo yarn or cotton to create
a reflection on the surface, the opposite of the light-absorbing wool, creating a movement.
Katharine is exploring tapestry weaving without the constructs of formal pattern that are found in
traditional tapestry. To sit and weave for a day focusing only on the passing of the weft through
the warp, a meditative process through repetition. Butterflies of weft are selected at random
letting them weave together, the tones and shades playing off each other as she focuses on the calm
surface, allowing these weft yarns to reveal the path of her weaving process. The butterflies are
the way in which the weft is held as it is passed through the warp, these are made before the
weaving of the day. Seven strands of wool create one weft each strand can be the same colour or
different.
These works are about the internal landscape as much as the one inhabited, with all the hues
tones and texture, mixing finding tranquillity in processes known and inhabited for decades.