A life in colour: bernat klein dovecot gallery, edinburgh
31 july – 26 september, 2015
photos: courtesy of klein trust, jed gordon and stuart armitt
The connection between textiles and art has been addressed repeatedly by artists and designers alike, but no one has forged that link quite as well as Bernat Klein – who combined his skills as a painter, and the process behind textile design in both his art and his work as a textile designer. Klein left a broad and important legacy in design, textile manufacture, commissioned architecture and the economy and heritage of Scottish Borders textiles.
During the 2015 Edinburgh Art Festival, Dovecot Gallery ran a retrospective featuring tapestries and paintings by the textile designer and artist Bernat Klein. Titled ‘Bernat Klein: A Life in Colour’, the exhibition celebrates the work of Klein who grew to international prominence in the 1950s and 1960s with his textile designs. Bernat Klein CBE (1922-2014) was born in Serbia and studied textile technology at Leeds University Textile Department until 1948, after which he embarked upon a career designing woven textiles leading him to Edinburgh to work for Munrospun;
later Klein established his own luxury textile enterprise, Colourcraft.
Scandia. Wool woven by ETC. 99 x 99 cm. 1971
From his own Pointillist inspired oil paintings and designs for Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent fabrics, to the luxurious furnishings and floral printed fashion synthetics, colour technology was at the heart of Klein’s practice. Klein applied this discerning eye
for colour and design to a variety of media, as illustrated in this exhibition of works spanning five
decades, including the tapestries created in collaboration with the Dovecot weavers in 1971. The tapestries created directly imitate the deeply folding creases of Klein’s painted works, examples of which also appear in the exhibition. In other works, Klein incorporates his own polyester and woven fabrics. From the suite of ten tapestries, five were available for sale during ‘A Life in Colour’.
Klein embraced a bright new palette inspired by his natural surroundings as a reaction to the utilitarian and earthy colour schemes of 1950s Scottish fashion and interior textiles. Working with mohair and tweed and weaving subtle and precise blends, Klein’s eye for colour was meticulous to the point of obsession, creating results that were sumptuous and superb.
Provencal Scarlet. Oil tweed polyester on canvas. 127 x 188 cm. 1968
Painting had always been a driving process behind Klein’s textile design. His stated interest in painting was always to ‘bring out colour harmonies and colour proportions and to experiment with textures in paint’. Throughout his career his fascination with the painting process grew. By the 1970s Klein’s designs for print textiles were being created by screen printing directly from photographs of Klein’s paintings. As exhibited in his works, what stands out is the interesting ways in which he dealt with textile, colours, and texture. He tries to find a connection between painting and textile design, weaving the two together. In his paintings, we find patterns, like the woven patterns you would find on cloth, but these aren’t woven into his canvases but rather painted on. For instance, Provencal Scarletis a bold collage of thickly applied paint, interwoven with rich pink and velvet ribbon – the Chanel fabrics seen on the catwalks of Paris in 1968. This depth of understanding in how patterns and textures should look and appear comes from his extensive experience in working with cloth. Klein understood how textiles fold, how they sit and crease and these qualities come across in his paintings. His artwork is not mere tapestry in the sense that it’s something that’s preconceived as a woven piece. The ten tapestries created by Dovecot’s weavers were interpreted from ten paintings specifically created as designs for tapestry, and they explore how a textile could be created to more deeply reflect the impasto shapes that feature so strongly in Klein’s paintings.
‘A Llfe in Colour’ depicts the deep bond between textile, painting and colour – a bond that Bernat Klein himself felt deeply. Klein’s vast knowledge in textile technology coupled with his affinity towards painting has worked towards not only creating a rich tradition in Scottish textile tradition, but also in the world of arts.
Note: Information regarding the exhibition and the artist are taken from the catalogue and press release of’Alife in Colour’ by Dovecot Gallery.
Leading Image : Bernat Klein: A Life in Colour 2015. Dovecot Gallery, Edinburgh
31 july – 26 september, 2015photos: courtesy of klein trust, jed gordon and stuart armitt The connection between textiles and art has been addressed repeatedly by artists and designers alike, but no one has forged that link quite as well as Bernat Klein – who combined his skills as a painter, and the process behind…