For those of you who aren’t familiar with ‘Duck Weave’, you might be surprised to learn that the oldest fabric recovered in the Western Hemisphere and possibly in the world was a piece of Duck Weave cloth. Made by early humans, the cloth was woven from plant fibres, probably palm, that were rubbed back and forth until they became twine-like, then woven together using bone awls to pack the weave tightly.
Although archaeology shows that Duck Weave techniques were numerous and wide-ranging, the cloth remained popular in England for the next 6,000 years and was used to make the walls of primitive huts and fencing up until its demise in the 18th century. Fascinated by this ancient craft, artist Richard Woods has spent the past 12 months rediscovering Duck Weave and developing a new stage in its evolution. The resulting works have become the focus of his upcoming show at the Eastside Projects Gallery in Birmingham.
Known for his large scale graphic artworks on architecture, his inventive and playful sculpture, and woodblock printed furniture, Woods has translated the Duck Weave pattern into a series of bold, multicoloured paintings and painted panels which each carry his distinctive, intensely graphic style.
With the show opening, Woods plans to envelope the 600 sq m gallery space with his new Duck Weave paintings and sculptures made from the panels, which will be overlaid and displayed on large scale woven wall painted motifs. 'The gallery space will be full of the painted woven canvases,’ Woods tells us. ‘Some will hang, some will lean against the walls and some will ‘free stand’ in the middle of the space aping a lost architectural style. Its an exhibition that draws its subject matter from the viewers yearning to rediscover a skill based production technique, that can be applied in contemporary construction.'
The immersive exhibition at Eastside will form part of the gallery's Production Show project – a two year programme of commissions, exhibitions and events that will transform the gallery into a hub for research, development, prototyping, manufacturing and display. 'We’re hoping that Richard’s works will be developed beyond the exhibition here,' explains Eastside director Gavin Wade, 'with later developments being presented back in the space as real products to perhaps construct houses with, and other types of buildings, and shelters. We’re dedicating the next two to three years to supporting art making that can impact socially through questioning ideas of how and why things are made, and embedding art into a range of social products from Widgets to Houses. Who better to start with than Richard!'