Henley Weaver Selected for International Exhibition

The work of a local tapestry artist, Matty Smith from Henley has been selected for a prestigious international exhibition in London and Nottingham.

Matty’s piece ‘Adonis Rising’ has been selected for Heallreaf 2019 where there are 40 exhibitors from all over the world. The exhibition runs from 7-21 September at Surface Gallery, Nottingham and then from 15-26 October at Espacio Gallery, London.

Matty has enjoyed textile activities for over four decades, including embroidery, hand spinning, hand dyeing and weaving of cloth.  She seriously engaged with tapestry weaving in 2008 and is largely self-taught, but with additional support through attending a number of courses and masterclasses. She’s exhibited her work regularly in open events and has had pieces selected for juried exhibitions both here and in the USA.

She said, “I have found in tapestry weaving a fulfilling means to enable my creativity to find expression. For me, tapestry has the unique characteristic of combining opportunistic spontaneity whilst developing in a very measured way over time. Essentially I see the process of tapestry weaving as a form of textile painting which goes beyond the two-dimensional constraints of fine art, allowing texture, depth and ‘substance’ to be embedded in the finished piece to create a very distinctive ‘presence’. Whilst much of my work draws on observation of everyday life, I am increasingly extending my ideas into more conceptual pieces and three-dimensional weaving as well as exploring collaboration with traditional artists through re-interpretation of their work.”

There is a ‘People’s Choice’ prize and visitors will vote for the work they like best. The winning artist receives £250, sponsored by yarn company Weavers Bazaar. There is also a Heallreaf Prize of £500 and that has been chosen by the jurors but only they and I know who has won it and will be announced on September 6 at the opening of the Nottingham Show.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Margaret Jones, herself a tapestry weaver.

She recalls how the whole idea began in a boardroom near Buckingham Palace. “The interview with 10 trustees of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (Qest) was the final stage of my successful bid for a scholarship from the Trust to help pay for the final year of my Master of Fine Arts at West Dean College. Part of my commitment to Qest was to attempt to place modern tapestry back in the fine art world where it started all those centuries ago.”

It was difficult to decide on a name for her exhibition but after much research she discovered that the word ‘heallreaf’ was Anglo Saxon for ‘a tapestry hung in a public place’ and so in 2014 the first Heallreaf exhibition took place at West Dean College.

As Margaret approached the end of her final year at West Dean College in 2015 she noticed that the students’ studios would be empty during the summer. “So I asked the college if I could use the space to hold an exhibition. They agreed and that was the first Heallreaf exhibition.”

Asked how Matty feels to have been selected for this exhibition, she replied, “I am delighted to have had a piece of work selected for the Heallreaf3 Exhibition. This is a major international tapestry art event which is growing in importance. To be included is an amazing honour.”