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Artist Rachel Johnston’s tapestry shortlisted for international award

Rachel-Johnston-Subtle-IncreaseA TAPESTRY created by a University of Chichester academic has been exhibited at the renowned Inverleith House gallery in Edinburgh after it was shortlisted for international award.

Senior lecturer Rachel Johnston’s artwork, Subtle Increase, was shortlisted for the famed Cordis Prize, the world’s largest award for tapestry. The Fine Art tutor’s research consists of two distinct, but related, strands – an intense focus on material and process – making textile-based sculptural pieces in relation to specific places.

Rachel said: “My aim for the work was to create a sculptural textile piece which conveyed the experience of being by a river and observing the weight and flow of the water.

“The artwork was made using traditional tapestry weaving techniques on a scaffolding loom, though I am no purist and use materials in quite a free-flowing way. I treat every piece as a an experiment, having a strong sense of what I want the flavour and scale of the piece to be and then allowing it to evolve and find its form as things go along assuming a life of its own.”

Rachel teaches across the Fine Art department’s undergraduate and postgraduate modules, with special responsibility for external projects – working to build links with nearby organisations and developing projects for art students. Her research includes residencies and commission with an ongoing focus on arts in health.

Subtle Increase is around 230cm high and 140cm across and the weight of the material causes it to slump and cascade in unexpected way. “It’s quite hard to get the feeling of the piece from pictures,” Rachel added.

“The heavy, material quality of the piece can only really be understood when you are standing next to it. Viewers have drawn all kinds of associations from its appearance, often seeing feathers or bird-like qualities - which seems appropriate.”

Rachel received critical acclaim from several art critics including the Herald, writing that her work “hangs, black, shaggy, cormorant-like, in opposition, woven and plaited, far looser in style, texturally tactile, with real presence.” The Scotsman, meanwhile, added: “Rachel Johnston creates a work in which the weave grows gradually looser.”

To find out more about artist Rachel Johnston and her research go to www.chi.ac.uk/fine-art/research. For more about Fine Art degree courses at the University of Chichester visit www.chi.ac.uk/fine-art.