The Broadway Gallery presents Allistair Covell: Canvas To Carpet (8 Feb – 5 May 2019), the first major solo exhibition of the British artist Allistair Covell which surveys the artist’s practice over the last five years, focusing on his journey from the canvas to working with carpets. The exhibition also offers the opportunity to look back at Covell’s creative past, revisiting old paintings and sketchbooks, revealing how past projects, experiments and concepts have informed and inspired his current body of work.
Covell creates vibrantly colourful and rhythmic abstract paintings inspired by his synaesthesic responses to 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 colours and shapes upon hearing sound.
Colour is fundamental to Covell’s practice and he uses it with confidence, describing music with expressive brush strokes, making marks and creating bold shapes that dance across the canvas, seeking to capture the spontaneity and abstract fluidity of sound. Covell’s vivid paintings are not only recordings of his immediate responses to aural stimuli; they also act as pictorial memories of people, places, and times.
In 2014, Covell was the recipient of the inaugural Best Young Designer Award at the 9thCarpet Design Awards at Domotex Hannover after submitting his design for The Citycarpet, an experience that motivated him to refocus his creative practice. Driven by a fascination for the artistic heritage and traditional techniques involved in carpet making, Covell began to explore the possibilities of working with this new surface.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a series of hand-knotted carpets crafted in Afghanistan by Turquoise Mountain, and Nepal by Rug Maker. The carpets, or ‘woven paintings’ as Covell refers to them, are unique interpretations of his paintings, iPad sketches, and ink drawings. Through these works we are able to examine the relationship between Covell and the weavers, observing how masterfully they have captured the rhythmic energy and spontaneity of his paintings. From expressive highly abstract painterly gestures to more refined pop art inspired impressions, each brush stroke, pencil mark and splash of colour has been faithfully translated into a woven knot.
Two short films, produced by Turquoise Mountain and Rug Maker serve to illustrate the different approaches taken by the Afghan and Nepalese weavers, with many of the techniques on show having remained unchanged for centuries. The films depict the collection and dyeing of the wool, the variety of knots woven on the looms and the washing and drying of the finished carpets. A number of the original artworks that were supplied to the carpet weavers for reference are on display in the gallery alongside carpet graphs and samples of dyed yarns.
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.