Designed by the Turner prize winning artist, Chris Ofili CBE, and hand woven by the internationally renowned Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh, The Caged Bird's Song is a bold and vibrant triptych which draws on Ofili's ongoing interests in classical mythology and contemporary demi-gods, and is inspired by the stories, magic and colour of the Trinidadian landscape he inhabits.
The commission and, in particular, the choice of such a prominent artist to design the work, make a powerful statement about our commitment to our root craft and our desire to support endangered skills and nurture talent.
Dovecot is one of only two surviving tapestry studios in the UK; it took a team of five master weavers over two and a half years to translate Ofili's watercolour design to the loom, interpreting, replicating and magnifying each and every colour and nuance with great skill and artistry. The three panels together measure some 7.8m wide by 2.8m high. The commission thus necessitated close collaboration between artist and maker(s), in what Ofili described as a ‘marriage of watercolour and weaving’.
In the left panel is a female figure, elegant and goddess-like, positioned at the edge of a scene, carrying crab-eye, a type of grass fed to songbirds. On the right is a male figure, carrying a song-bird in a cage. The central panel contains an imagined landscape in which a waterfall tumbles into the sea, and where a musician serenades his female companion. She, in turn, receives a mysterious drink into a cocktail glass, poured from the tree above by an abstracted otherworldly figure, inspired by the black African Italian footballer Mario Balotelli, a prodigiously talented yet troubled figure.
As the spray of the waterfall touches their faces, the lovers sit absorbed in the moment, unaware of eyes upon them, however fleetingly. Soon the curtains will close and their watery world disappear from view, just as storm clouds rolling in on the horizon suggested a darkening to come, bring to an end this arcadian vision.
The Caged Bird's Song has now been installed in Clothworkers' Hall following its extremely successful run at The National Gallery as the centrepiece of the recent Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic show. It will be unveiled to Members of the Company for the first time at the October Livery Dinner; however, appointments to view the tapestry at other times are being offered to students, Clothworkers and members of the public alike. Please visit the following page on our main website for further information: https://www.clothworkers.co.uk/History/Collections/Tapestries/The-Caged-Bird-s-Song.aspx or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment.
A limited number of Weaving Magic catalogues (now sold out in shops) have been reserved for Members to purchase for £25 including postage and packaging. Please email email@example.com if you would like to purchase a copy.