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Tadek Beutlich: beyond craft
17 September 2016 - 23 April 2017
Polish-born Tadek Beutlich’s distinctive style and approach challenges the usual definitions of craft categorisation. As an artist, weaver and tapestry maker he would often be inspired to create his textile work directly from his prints, and yet he believed that to plan out a tapestry or weaving by sketching it with pencil on paper was to do a disservice to the material that he worked with. This complex relationship between fine arts and craft has much to do with his early years as a student – Beutlich was profoundly influenced by one of his teachers at art school in Poland who taught him “not to think just do it”, an ethos which resonated throughout his career.
After the Second World War he enrolled as a student of painting and drawing at the Sir John Cass Institute in London, transferring to Camberwell School of Art and Crafts and graduating with a degree in Textiles in 1950. Whilst Beutlich was studying he accompanied his teacher, weaver Barbara Sawyer, on a visit to Ethel Mairet at Gospels, her home and workshop in Ditchling. Mairet’s imaginative treatment of yarns had a profound influence on Beutlich and his subsequent practice, although after initial experimentation with natural dyes he rejected the discipline as he found they faded too quickly. He eventually moved into Gospels in 1967 after Mairet’s death.
Beutlich used natural materials for his weaving such as sisal and jute and, whilst living in Spain, he began working with esparto grass. His work often contained pieces of organic material such as wood, and in one instance, samples of x-ray films, and their size was only limited by the space he worked in.
Our exhibition displays Beutlich’s woven tapestry pieces alongside his prints and places the two in conversation, offering visitors the opportunity to view the relationship between them and the experience of viewing the incredible textures of his textile work close-up.