Paisley fabrics - Exploding The Teardrop At PM Gallery, Ealing

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 11 December 2007
a piece of paisley pattern fabric with a blue background

Collected Paisley fabrics used in the work of artist Lisa Busby.

An exhibition of new work by international artists based on Paisley and the origins, development and various uses of the pattern is currently showing at the PM Gallery at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, West London.

Paisley, Exploding the Teardrop, runs until January 19 2008 and reflects on the first appearance of the tear-shaped ‘buta’ motif in Babylon, its spreading into India, its use in 18th century Europe, mass production in Paisley, Scotland in the 19th century and its widespread appearance in the 1960s when it became synonymous with psychedelia.

Bringing together eight international artists, the exhibition features an array of vivid and highly imaginative work across a variety of media including textiles, stitch, weave, print, film, painting, sound, performance and installation.

a banner with various motifs on it

Home Coming by Rekha Rodwittiya. Based on the traditional ‘Toran’ or gateway structure

Lisa Busby used sound and performance to feature the voices of townsfolk or ‘buddies’ from her birthplace of Paisley, Scotland, with each of them discussing their memories of working with Paisley pattern.

It was in the 19th century that weavers in the town that gave its name to the textile pattern first began producing inexpensive copies of luxurious Kashmir shawls. The originals from India would have taken up to three years to complete and would have cost around 300 guineas each – equivalent of over £20,000 today.

These Indian shawls were so valued that princes would give them as gifts to people of equal rank. By the 18th century, officers of the East India Company were buying these beautiful textiles for their wives and sweethearts at home.

a collage made of cut photographs and pieces of fabric

Photo-collage work by Lisa Busby © Lisa Busby 2007

Initially coveted by the wealthy, the shawls became more and more popular. By the 19th century the town in Scotland that produced the cheaper copies became the accepted name for the motif or pattern originally known as buta or boteh.

Its origins are believed to lie in Ancient Babylon from where it spread to India and parts of prehistoric Europe where versions of it emerged in textiles, embroidery, tiles and carvings.

a oil painting consisting of strings of dots against a purple background

'Judy 2' by Jane Langley. Oil on canvas. © the artist

The work of Delaine Le Bas looks into these ancient historical roots of Paisley with an installation that reflects the modern day state of the original places where the buta and Paisley pattern developed. Similarly Gurdeep Sehmar’s video work celebrates the organic vibrancy of Paisley with a soundtrack that relates to the visual flow and history of the motif.

Jennifer Wright has crafted a floor rug from Hama beads and based on the historical Garden Rugs whilst a second piece has initially been created on computer to produce a woven piece that combines Paisley patterned plants and other hybrid forms.

an oil painting of paisley inspired swirling cloud-like patterns against a vibrant pink background

Paisley by Kathleen Mullaniff. Wax on paper, digital print, 2007.

Laurie Addis has also mixed the ancient with the modern with her dense woven tapestries made on an automated loom to create highly textural works that mix pixels from digitised paisley motifs via a mathematically generated system known as cellular automation with warp painting.

The Paisley pattern has fascinated people for centuries and this exhibition celebrates that heritage, reinterpreting it both in traditional woven work and in some surprising experimental forms, breathing new life into what is an ancient and venerable pattern.

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