Charlotte von Poehl’s work is informed by the history of design and by minimal art; it oscillates between art and life, between usefulness and aesthetics, while questioning the space, the lighting and the architecture of the room it occupies. The piece she has created in collaboration with Woven Studio for the exhibition entitled “Patchworks” at the Skissernas Museum – Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art eloquently testifies to how open her practice is to other fields of creation.
Using a random alternation of five colours on a grid, the Harlequin series offers a colour chart which evokes, now the Scandinavian design of the sixties, now the moss of autumn forests, now theatrical costumes – depending on each one’s imagination. The systematic, mechanical repetition of touches of colour still allows for the possibility of random variations, like a musical score leaving room for interpretation. Here, rhythm and the passing of time are conveyed by alternating dabs of paint.
Von Poehl had long wished to prolong this series using another technique. Instrumental in materializing this project was Made in Town – both a gallery and a platform for the promotion of skills she had started collaborating with several years earlier – which introduced her to Woven Studio, the traditional weaving studio based in London and founded by Laura Miles in 1997. In the finest English tradition, Woven Studio reinterprets the weaving of noble fibres in a wide variety of materials and colours, to create complex and unusual assemblages.
Charlotte von Poehl has herself taught design in the past, so she is perfectly familiar with its codes and its history. Her works persistently question the role of ornaments, but in a subdued, discreet way. She is interested in craft as much as in industrial techniques, and she has been doing extensive research in the domain of materials for some years now. It is no wonder that her collaboration with Woven Studio has turned out to be a success.
Von Poehl met Laura Miles through Made in Town in September 2016. Because she had lived in London during her studies at Goldsmiths College of Art, she immediately felt at ease in Woven Studio’s London workshops. They are elegantly arranged around a small handloom and plenty of samples and woven fabrics. Discussions and shared thoughts around her work, around the planned exhibition, and around weaving techniques, and the concept of the work itself allowed for the fine-tuning of a project which is a true dialogue between artist and artisan.
Charlotte von Poehl, Harlequin, 2017, Jacquard weave made in collaboration with Woven Studio Production: Made in Town Éditions, Photo: Terje Östling
The work was eventually created on a Jacquard loom, its industrial scale making a 130×250 cm weave possible. After scanning Charlotte von Poehl’s drawings, Laura Miles sent her a selection of samples so she could decide more precisely on the technique she wished to adopt. The latter then had free rein to choose the colour scheme and the size of the check pattern, thus testifying to the deep trust which drove their partnership.
Charlotte von Poehl was really happy with the deliberately irregular weft of the final weave, and with the fine colouring work done by Laura Miles. Moreover, the irregular weft is reminiscent of the malleability of von Poehl’s initial technique in her series in which watercolours sometimes spill over the edges of the squares. Using the industrial technique of the Jacquard, Laura Miles was able to reintroduce the unpredictability and the irregularity which are dear to von Poehl.
This collaboration has resulted in a piece which stands out in Charlotte von Poehl’s body of work, presented for the first time on the occasion of her 2017 solo exhibition “Patchworks” at the Skissernas Museum – Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art. Its physicality, its sheer weight, confer on this new materialisation of Harlequin a tangibility which is new to her work. Its monumentality lends itself particularly well to the context of the museum. The majority of von Poehl’s works are designed for a specific space, a specific light, and given patterns of visitor circulation. While they can be moved, her works are essentially meant to function in a specific environment. The work she has created for the Skissernas Museum was meant from the start for a specific spot in the exhibition hall: the very first wall visitors see upon arrival.
This new piece enters into a dialogue with other works featured in “Patchworks,” but also with the collection of weaves and tapestries held by the museum, such as Sonia Delaunay’s wonderful pieces, or the many public commissions of tapestries to be found in the Swedish collections.
Clearly, this production owes its success for the most part to the creative complicity between Charlotte von Poehl and Laura Miles, born of a fluid and intelligent dialogue between the two. In fact, Charlotte von Poehl does not rule out the idea of collaborating further with Woven Studio in the future. This checker jacquard weave is a pivotal piece in her career; it is bound to open new avenues for the development of her work.