Join our community, stay updated on our artists and their artworks & discover our latest news. Subscribe

April 08, 2022

Textile Art, the Enduring Medium

Article by Emie Diamond

3 min. read

Figured tossed by gyre in black and white
Molly Kent, Tightening Gyre, 2021

The contemporary renaissance in textile art despite, or perhaps in spite of, technology, demonstrates a continued enthusiasm for tactile art. In twenty-first-century western society, where science is a form of religion, people are more physically and spiritually distanced from death than ever before. The days of Dutch vanitas paintings or Classical antiquity memento mori imagery are long gone. Yet, after bearing witness to Covid’s destructive path and being unable to ignore the fleeting nature of one’s life, the desire to collect art with integrity is an ever-present sentiment. Likewise, the necessity of primarily engaging with the world from behind a screen for almost two years has further contributed to today’s palpable appetite to experience the physicality of life and thus continue to embrace textile art.

While today tapestries are regarded as fine art and collected by institutions and museums alike, the medium’s colourful past adds to its story of redemption. Textiles are inextricably tied to trade and played a key role in the development of early civilisation. Through an art historical lens popularised by post-Renaissance theorists like Giorgio Vasari, a distinction emerged where art that can simultaneously offer a function is cited as decorative and relegated to a lesser status. However, the Nineteenth century Arts and Crafts movement led by artist William Morris and championed by intellectuals like Art Critic John Ruskin redefined Applied Arts as a form of “high art.” Textile art continued to gain traction, and a century later, the medium was officially recognised when the Tate Modern featured Anni Albers as their headline exhibition.

Interest in textile-based works continues to soar. 2021 saw a range of international exhibitions featuring woven pieces, with South African artist Billie Zangewa regarded as an unequivocal favourite. Utilising intricately hand-stitched raw silk from vibrant, found fabrics, Zangewa’s portraiture challenges historical stereotypes of the black female form and offers a critical reminder of the multidimensionality of humans. Other notable established and emerging artists who utilise textiles in their practice are Brent Wadden, Molly Kent, Ptolemy Mann, Nick Cave, Heather Cook, Ulla-Maija Vikman, Sheila Hicks, and Channing Hansen.

Textile art’s place in the canon of art history is all the richer, having endured a complicated past, for no other medium presents as authentic a narrative. In woven artworks, the artist’s hand is visible, enabling a rare intimacy and capturing a unique spirit. Drawing on thousands of years of tradition, tapestries exist as a tangible marker of the time in which they are woven. Unpretentious familiarity combines with challenging context, resulting in a supremely intellectual art form. For those who collect mainly paintings, drawings, or sculptures, acquiring textile piece brings another dimension to a collection. In this same vein, curators of institutions are often looking to woven works to expand the breadth of their displays. One can surmise those who continue to collect textile art, in these times of amusing technological advances will be seen in posterity as arbiters of history’s most enduring medium.


Multicolored fabric pieces glued together with text saying lies evoke doubt
Molly Kent, Life Evokes Doubt, 2020
Fabric pieces glued together in abstract shapes in vibrant pink, blue, orange, green, black and gray with text
Molly Kent, Doubt Plagues Me, 2020

Discover more


Suspicion Evokes Doubt
Suspicion Evokes Doubt
Molly KentTextile$2,200


Molly Kent

Molly Kent

Edinburgh, Scotland

Read more

All Articles


Dr. Kenneth Montague: on Art Collecting &...

newcube spoke with Dr. Kenneth Montague about the under-representation of Black subjects in modern and contemporary art. Discover more about the Wedge Collection and the Wedge Curatorial Projects, and its legacy in the art world.

By newcube

Our StoryContact UsFAQ
© 2024 newcube - All rights reserved
made with love byCaracal Agency