07 MAY 2021 – 29 MAY 2021

The title of the exhibition, ambi, is Punjabi for the pattern known in Scotland as Paisley Pattern. ambi also means ‘both’, allowing for multiple narratives and acknowledging that these works from the archive have diverse origins and appropriations.

This exhibition, a partnership between CCA and GSA, took works from the textiles, fashion and costume holdings at The Glasgow School of Art Archives & Special Collections as its starting point. The GSA had specially commissioned four UK-based artists and designers – Rabiya Choudhry, Fiona Jardine, Raisa Kabir and Hanneline Visnes – to select one piece each and track its histories in order to present a new story or work from it.

Pursuing a line of research connected with the manufacture of carpets late 19th and early 20th century, Fiona Jardine looked at the relationship between space, place and labour.

Originally concerned with weaving lace in Darvel, Ayrshire, by 1898 the firm of Alexander Morton & Sons had established an enterprise in Killybegs, Donegal making hand-knotted carpets. Prominent architects and designers such as George Walton and C.F.A. Voysey produced designs for Morton which were worked up by women in Killybegs, and the name ‘Donegal’ became synonymous with carpets of the highest quality.

For her new work, ‘Gather your spools, let your hair down for me. Gently. Here. Undo.‘, Raisa Kabir performed with a woven head of hair, responding to the textile geographies of labour between Kashmiri woven shawls, Paisley, Scotland, Textile Archives, and South Asian diasporic migration and displacement.

This work acted as a consequent reminder of the colonial imposed borders and the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan.

Rabiya Choudhry investigated the Paisley Pattern, (which historically has its origins in Ancient Babylon or Iran) with its unique teardrop or ‘boteh’ form. The word ‘boteh’ is Persian for ‘shrub or cluster of leaves’, and the seed like shape of Paisley pattern is purported to represent fertility.

Paisley pattern also became a bohemian emblem in the western world’s appropriation of it. Choudhry collaborated with a textiles specialist to make small textiles from a series of new patterns she designed.

Hanneline Visnes researched the work of Dorothy Carleton Smyth [1880-1933]. The GSA Archives & Collections holds several costume designs by Smyth for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Wilde’s Salome. In 1914, Smyth became Principal of Commercial Art at Glasgow School of Art, teaching miniature painting and the history of costume and armour. In 1933, she was offered, and accepted, the post of Director of the Glasgow School of Art, but tragically died of a brain haemorrhage, aged 52, before the appointment was made public.

Visnes responded to the costumes and characters created by Smyth in a series of new gouache drawings. Visnes showed her new cast of characters in paintings alongside Smyth’s costume studies of theatrical casts.

This exhibition was co-curated by:
Jenny Brownrigg (GSA) and Sabrina Henry (CCA)

Text by GSA Exhibitions.

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