Today Oxfordshire Artweeks explores art that has been inspired by the past, from childhood memories to ancient history and we talk to a textile artist Jane O’Brien https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/jane-obrien-woa whose latest pieces are a contemporary take on some of the treasures in the Abingdon Museum collection, as the museum celebrates 100 years since formation of the museum committee.
Jane found herself enchanted by a fascinating ‘beaker’ or painted and enamelled glass vessel that visitors to the museum can see the fragments mounted as a reconstruction in a cabinet near reception on the first floor. “It’s only small [at about twelve inches tall] but the detail is amazing,” she explains. “I have always loved the idea of the silk road and age-old travel and trade along ancient routes, and this particular beaker is thought to date back to the mid 13th century and probably travelled to Abingdon with returning crusaders from the Middle East. It is an incredible thought that it travelled all that way and is now displayed here, having been discovered in a pit under Lombard Street just 50 metres from the museum. Its presence here reinforces that Abingdon was a great trading centre. I have spent some time researching this piece and similar vessels : only a handful have been unearthed around the world and they’re on show in Baltimore, Berlin and in the Louvre in Paris, so it is remarkable to have our very own Abingdon example! When it arrived here there was nothing like this produced locally and it must have been considered an absolute treasure.”
“The illustrations on the vessel are equine and at first I thought they must be heroes or warriors but closer investigation it seems they are polo players – or the equivalent from 800 years ago! The remaining horse images are red, white and black and the riders are clothed in golden kaftans: they must have been mesmerising on horseback, shimmering in the light, and they give us an insight into the history of textiles in the Middle East.”
“With these elements in mind, I have used voile fabric to represent the glass as it has a similar translucency and woven stainless steel fabric onto which I have stitched the pictures and characters to created textile fragments which are suspended in the frame in the finished piece.”
For more, visit: Website https://www.artweeks.org/festival/theme/inspired-past