This Autumn, East Quay is delighted to be presenting artworks by Lyn Barlow and Grayson Perry.
Common Thread is a new exhibition at East Quay in Watchet, Somerset, featuring tapestries by Grayson Perry and embroidered works by local artist and activist Lyn Barlow. The exhibition celebrates two very different artists: one a well-known public figure and artist of international standing and the other an extraordinary but relatively hidden talent working locally in West Somerset. Both artists use thread to powerfully tell tales of trials and tribulations, but also activism, stoicism, and strength.
In Lyn’s quilts, the viewer is party to a story that is simultaneously extraordinary and ordinary. It is a story of great sadness and strife, but also one highlighting a life of integrity, devoted to community and care. By pairing these works with Grayson Perry’s, the exhibition brings together the intriguing stories of two women living regular but fascinating lives, Julie in Essex, and Lyn in Somerset, both existing through a common era and cultural landscape, portrayed through a common medium - thread.
Gallery One at East Quay will feature two tapestries by Grayson Perry, on loan from the Crafts Council collection designed and created for Perry's House for Essex project. The tapestries depict key events from the life of a fictional character named Julie Cope, an ordinary Essex woman living in the latter half of the twentieth century. Through the tapestries, Grayson conveys the beauty, vibrancy, and contradictions of a regular individual - telling the stories, in his words, of “the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life".
The first of the tapestries displayed, titled A Perfect Match, shows Julie’s early years from birth to marriage. Julie’s later years, second marriage, and death are depicted in the second tapestry, In it's Familiarity, Golden. The Ballad of Julie Cope, a written narrative, will be displayed alongside the tapestries for viewers to read. The tapestries were acquired by the Crafts Council with support from the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and a donation from Maylis and James Grand.
Gallery Two will feature three, large-scale embroidered works by local Somerset artist, Lyn Barlow, who uses textiles to tell her own life story spanning a 60-year period, framed by an evolving social and political context across three decades. Lyn’s charming, embroidered works illustrate how her life played out from the 1960s to the present time. Each quilt spans twenty years, from a childhood in care and homelessness, living in a squat in Brixton’s Villa Road, to a prominent position among the protesters at Greenham Common and many stints in prison for her cause. The quilts show a rich but turbulent life; from her remarkable transition to studying at the University of Cambridge and working at the New Statesman, to an altogether more peaceful time in Somerset, where Lyn now lives and makes her work.
On making the quilts during 2022 and 2023, Lyn says: “This heralded the beginning of a journey I’m still living, in which textiles came to be the most important thing in my life, my ‘core’ my version of activism…my most effective way to articulate my feelings and beliefs.”
This exhibition is made possible with support from Arts Council England and the Golsoncott Foundation. East Quay would like to thank the Crafts Council for loaning A Perfect Match - Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2016.18) and In its Familiarity, Golden - Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2016.19). To find out more about the Crafts Council Collection, please click here.
You can listen to Lyn Barlow's Quilt Music Playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1gQ2PFnr7v5NoASiqxGtNs?si=e32253d7af1a4ac0
Born in 1963 in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Lyn Barlow is an artist and craftivist based in Somerset, England. Barlow's work documents her life and experiences from childhood in care to time spent as an activist at RAF Greenham Common, to her present life in Williton, West Somerset. Working primarily with thread, Lyn's embroidered works reference protest banners, acting as tableaux, depicting scenes from her life, while touching on key moments in history, placing her story within the political, social, and historical context of the time. A relatively unknown talent outside her community, Barlow’s practice is rooted in her community where she participates in the local Minehead Quaker Group, Williton Chatty Crafter Craft Group, and Watchet Mind Support Group.
A prominent figure among protesters who lived at the Greenham Common Peace camp from 1983 to 1987, Lyn’s story has been featured in BBC's 'Lights Out', depicting accounts of political convictions, arrests, court appearances, and imprisonment resulting from the Greenham Common protests. Lyn Barlow has exhibited extensively in local and community exhibitions in West Somerset. Additionally, Lyn worked as a researcher for the New Statesman before studying at New Hall College, Cambridge University.
Grayson Perry, born in 1960, is a celebrated British contemporary artist known for his work commenting on contemporary life. Through ceramics and tapestries, Perry delves into identity, gender, and societal norms. The recipient of the 2003 Turner Prize, his recent exhibitions include: The National Museum, Oslo, Norway(2022–2023); Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands (2022); Manchester Art Gallery, UK (2021), The Holburne Museum, Bath, UK (2020–2021), La Monnaie de Paris, France (2018–2019); Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland (2018); The Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2017); Arnolfini, Bristol (2017); ARoS Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark (2016) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia(2015–2016).
The works featured in this exhibition are on loan from the Crafts Council Collection. A Perfect Match - Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2016.18) and In its Familiarity, Golden - Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2016.19). Acquired with Art Fund support (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and a donation from Maylis and James Grand. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon Press, and Victoria Miro, London. © Grayson Perry.
This exhibition is funded by Arts Council England and the Golsoncott Foundation.
Image credit: Joe Horton