Barbara Brown & Lucienne Day

12 November 2017

The past few weekends I've been exploring some textile exhibitions in Manchester, which took me to the Whitworth Gallery & Manchester University. 

It’s usually the graphic design exhibitions that catch my eye but today I wanted to explore something a bit different, and my first visit to the Whitworth didn’t disappoint.

The lovely building is surrounded by a park which I’ll have to explore when the weather is nicer! Inside the atmosphere was buzzing with visitors, a book fair, a photographer giving an insight into his work and a video piece by Steve McQueen.

'Terminal' and 'Untitled' by Bernard Schottlander, 1964.

Barbara Brown at the Whitworth

This is the first solo exhibition of Barbara Brown’s work which runs from March to December 2017. Brown studied at Canterbury College followed by the Royal College of Art. At her degree show she was spotted by Tom Worthington from the leading British textile firm, Heal Fabrics. Working at Heal, Brown won many awards throughout the 1960's and 1970's for her unusual designs.

The textiles were presented on large hanging rolls which were quite striking. The patterns that Brown designed are immediately eye-catching pieces, with their use of bold shapes and colours.

“Wishing to be a sculptor she was pushed towards textile design. The results are some of the most powerful and unusual patterns produced”

Lucienne Day, Living Design Exhibition

This exhibition was held in the Benzie building of Manchester University, and happened to be an open day so was packed with parents and students. The collection had been lent by TheGallery, Arts University in Bournemouth, and was displayed on each floor as you ventured higher up the building.

Being one of Britain’s most pioneering textile designers it was great to see her work on display. One of her designs, Calyx, was featured in the famous Festival of Britain in 1951. It was composed of cup-shaped motifs connected by spindly lines, which Lucienne had created as a fabric for an interior designed by her husband, Robin Day.

Her career took off after the festival and she began to design fabrics, wallpapers, ceramics and rugs commercially. 

Apparently influenced by Paul Klee and Joan Miro, this can be seen in her use of abstract lines, shapes and layered geometric patterns. The patterns seem influenced in an abstract way by nature's plants and animals, and with their bold shapes and colours they are immediately eye-catching and attractive pieces of work.

The exhibition had a significant amount of large scale fabrics on show, as well as photos of her work and Lucienne herself. It was an enjoyable day exploring some of these great female textile designers.

To find out more about what’s on at The Whitworth be sure to follow them on Twitter or visit their website.

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