First we travelled north to Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire to visit Anna Ray, a lovely young woman whose very unusual work has impressed me immensely over the last few years. Her sculptural pieces comprise tubular stuffed structures made of cloth that draw on the viscera of the body as their source of inspiration, their writhing forms appearing organic and alive. She builds her work piece by piece until they reach a satisfactory size. Irresistibly tactile, her work entitled Knot draws excited physical response wherever it is exhibited, even in the chaste surroundings of a chapel in Italy.
Extremely articulate and organised, she speaks intelligently about the emotional journey of her art with great intensity. As a counterpoint to her bold fabric pieces she surprised us with a series of delicate embroideries entitled In the Garden drawn from a residency at the Winterbourne Botanic Garden in Birmingham in 2004. Their fine silken stitches emulate the subtlest of drawn and painted marks.
Visiting the studio
William is a tapestry artist who was setting standards in his creative use of the medium thirty years ago and is still pushing the boundaries with his beautiful shaped and textured pieces today, employing a rich combination of form and shape to evoke illusion.
He had assembled a huge array of samples for us to see his working process. His tapestries go against every conventional idea of what tapestry is, or should be. Woven on an upright frame, they comprise heavily textured, irregularly shaped (sometimes undulating) constructions that contrast bright colours of fine wool and lustrous cotton against the earthy textures and neutral tones of rope and sisal. They are totally unique in their conception and construction, and William, a charming and generous host, talked to us at length about his work that is also inspired by collaged collections of small objects.