A couple of months ago on the Past Impressions blog, we listed some of history's most marvelled tapestries; still as revered today as they were upon their unveiling. Their instant recognition does however paint Tapestry as being an art-form who's heyday has passed. In reality, needlepoint remains a cornerstone of the art industry, and we'd like to show just how incredible the modern day tapestry spectrum is with a selection of mind-blowing pieces, leading from the 1950's up to the present day.
Theseus & The Minotaur (1956)Designer: Sax Shaw
An iconic moment of Greek mythology that's been interpreted and depicted countless times, the image of Athens' mythical founder-king slaying the Minotaur has found its way into multiple tapestries throughout history. This design was woven at Edingburh's Dovecot Studios - a fantastic tapestry studio that you must visit if you find yourself in the city - and is unique in that it's frozen right before the pivotal final blow. We can tell it is such by the way the colours are aligned, and the pattern itself is very reminiscent of French tapestry designers.
Aberdeen 1964 (1964)Designer: Archie Bennan
Another wonderful work made at Dovecot studios, and not the last on this list for that matter, this representation of the light and character of the Scottish city of Aberdeen was purchased by the Aberdeen Art Gallery after it's unveiling, where it remains as part of their Modern Art collection. Whether its related to events that occurred in the city in 1964 may not be outwardly clear, what is worth noting is that it was one of the first tapestries to be woven with weavers facing the front, and using various types of yarn to enhance the texture of different surface areas.
Whitworth Tapestry (1967)Designer: Eduardo PoalozziThis full-on image combines both contemporary textile techniques and images, with key markers of the age including Piet Mondrian and Walt Disney being easy to spot and marvel at. The Whitworth Tapestry was notably shown off a the 'Weaving the Century at Dovecot Studios 1912 - 2012' exhibition in Edinburgh and Warwickshire, which acknowledged the work of the reputable studio by featuring 60 of its tapestries from England and America that don't often see the light of day.
Sky Cathedral II (1974)Designer: Louise NevelsonLouise Nevelson is most known for her wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures, but in the 70's she commissioned this terrific piece of tapestry artwork. Based on her own marquette Sky Cathedral, it's hard to truly get the astonishing 3-dimensional work and attention to textures from this photograph, but you can still appreciate the way in which shade and size have been used to evoke depth and construction.
The Quaker Tapestry (1996)Designer: Anne Wynn-Wilson and others
The Quaker Tapestry is unique in history, in that it's possibly the first and only to have been born from a chance remark of an eleven-year old boy. It uses familiar embroidery methods, plus a new rope-like 'Quaker stitch' technique to chronicle 350 years of social history for Quakerism. As the world's largest modern community textile project, it's worth seeking out for concept alone.
Aristocracy (2000)Designer: Bjørn NørgaardMoving away from the work of Dovecot Studios and into the new millennium, this tapestry, along with the 16 other works made by Bjørn Nørgaard for Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, can be seen in the great hall at Christianborg Palace. Aristocracy in particular weaves a collage of key points within the country's historical narrative, and uses the Danish artist's knack for combining artistic and cultural themes with his firm love of history.
Mappa Del Mundo (2008)Designer: Gavin TurkThis wool and silk tapestry comes from Gavin Turk (a member of the Brit artist collective from the late 80's) and brings together his approach to identity and authenticity with his recurring technique of using rubbish and recycling in his works. The Mappa Del Mundo, or 'Map of The World' is a collage of litter arranged as an atlas. The title possibly reflects the fact that, at the time, the world's former largest landfill was in Rio de Janeiro, making the poignancy in this piece easy to see.
The Walthamstow Tapestry (2009)Designer: Grayson PerryA well known pattern by 2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry, The Walthamstow Tapestry can be read from left to right, telling a continuous stream of tales of modern living, all of which are tucked in between countless brand names, which the artist believes receive an almost religious significance within the 21st century. The full pattern stretches fifteen by three meters, and stands as a powerful expresison by the artist, who once said cheekily: "I hope it ends up in the foyer of a bank."
The Vanity of Small Differences (2012)Designer: Grayson PerryPerry's next big project was a series of six tapestries that collectively tell a haunting pop-art inspired story of class mobility. Inspired by the encounters seen on his Channel 4 series All In The Best Possible Taste, this particular part of the tapestry; The Expulsion From Number 8 Eden Close, shows our hero passing through a literal class barrier in an attempt to escape the dangerous act of defining different areas of education and culture.
Coruscant Tapestry (2014)Designer: Aled LewisAnd finally, a tapestry that is as 'modern' as you can get. This 10-metre long pattern tells the entire six-film story of the Star Wars movies in a style easily comparable to the Beyaeux Tapestry. Like its inspiration, Lewis' masterpiece is technically an embroidery, though as many of the examples above demonstrate, 'tapestry' has been redefined as its own form of storytelling, rather than a straight form of needlepoint. Currently on display at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, California, this tale of long, long ago in a galaxy far away can sit pretty in anyone's Deathstar gallery for only $20,000.
Are you an aficionado of mind-blowing tapestries who's shocked to see your favourites left off this list? Then share your favourite works of art with us either in the comments below, or over at our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. We also have a thriving Tapestry community that we'd love for you to weave yourself into.
Don't forget to check out Past Impressions' own collection of Tapestry kits to find your own piece of crafty inspiration.