Canvas To Carpet was the first major solo exhibition of British artist Allistair Covell, presenting a series of hand-knotted carpets as the centrepiece to a display that surveyed the artist’s creative practice over the last five years.
The carpets, handcrafted in Afghanistan by Turquoise Mountain and Nepal by Rug Maker, are woven interpretations of Covell’s vibrant and rhythmic abstract paintings, themselves inspired by the artist’s synaesthesic responses to music and sound.
Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon, a condition best described as a ‘union of the senses’ where one sensory experience prompts another. For Covell synaesthesia grants him the ability to see colour upon hearing musical notes. Music is an ever-changing audiovisual landscape, with sounds appearing as different shapes, tones and textures. Covell mixes his synaesthetic experiences with traditional art subjects such as abstract depictions of people, places, events or memories.
Visitors to the gallery had the opportunity to experience the creative journey from canvas to carpet, learning about the techniques the distant weavers used to interpret and faithfully translate Covell’s energetic brushwork into unique, hand-woven compositions. Two short films produced by Turquoise Mountain and Rug Maker, were on display in the exhibition, illustrating the different process and techniques of carpet production in Afghanistan and Nepal.
A number of the original artworks that inspired the carpets were featured in the exhibition, shown alongside samples of dyed yarns, carpet graphs and the artists sketchbooks.
One of Covell’s early works, Church Window, an oil pastel sketch dating from 2004, predicts the abstract style he would later adopt, and two sketchbooks from Covell’s time at art college display visual journeys around London, one of which inspiring the surface pattern of a carpet produced in 2017. Revisiting these earlier exercises LGC 18, drawn on an iPad, chronicles Covell’s journey to and from his studio with a walk around Letchworth and a trip in London.
Allistair Covell: Canvas to Carpet ran from Friday 8th February to Sunday 5th May 2019 at the Broadway Gallery, Letchworth Garden City.