There’s a great warmth that comes from the ragged, woolly presence of Brent Wadden’s large (two by two and a half metres) woven work. You might even say its tactile qualities are cosy.
But the design is less comfortable: irregular, patched together in haste, an austere black and white. He doesn’t use much technology, but Wadden has borrowed the look of a glitchy piece of software.
Software and soft furnishings; weaving and, as has been often pointed out, coding. There is a correspondence between this ancient form of craft and the digital times we live in.
In the critical theory of weaving* we find this: “Freud believed weaving and plaiting to be the only technique ever invented by women (no small invention if it leads to computers).”
(Had Freud lived to see the arrival of abstract expressionism, he might have been agog to find, in thirtysomething Wadden, a male artist with such a feminine take on a macho genre.)
But as anyone could tell you, having seen the Viennese psychologist’s famous couch, Freud was not averse to making you comfy with a rug or two, a cushion or three.
There’s something about the welcome in his consulting room which finds an echo in the work under discussion. This dense piece of stitching allows the viewer to unravel a little.
Or at least to grow absorbed in the varying yarns and shades of the panels which make up the whole. This was at least as absorbing as a neurotic monologue about my mother might have been.
But unlikely as it seems, weaving is also widely political. Caroline Rooney’s theoretical essay on weaving also mentions The Statesman by Plato, where weaving is a metaphor for good government.
And so as s/he, “weaves the good and serviceable threads together to produce the unified, harmonious social fabric”, the ideal head of state is, of course, closer to a mill worker than a banker.
Brent Wadden: How Long is Now? can be seen at Pace, London, until 31 October 2015.
*Deconstruction and Weaving, Caroline Rooney, from Deconstructions: A User’s Guide, ed. Nicholas Royle