World’s largest neon tapestry comes to Canterbury

The Tapestry of Light: Intersections of Illumination is a breath-taking neon illumination that will soon be right on our very doorsteps in the Canterbury Cathedral Chapter House.

The tapestry recently had its world-premiere in Brussels and will arrive in the UK on the 14 October.  Designed by Australian artist Irene Barberis, the research and execution of the project has taken more than ten years, and has resulted in the largest neon Tapestry ever known. Spanning across fourteen panels, across 14 panels, it is 36 metres long by 3 metres high,  immersing the viewer in a neon-coloured story of war, peace and the promise of hope.

The artwork is a recreation of the exquisite 14th century Tapestry of the Apocalypse, a medieval French set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou — now on display at the Chateau d’Angers (pictured).

London-born Australian artist Irene Barberis first became interested in its recreation in the 1980s. “No women had worked with the full cycle of the Apocalypse and I wanted to fill the gap,” she says. As such, it is the first adaptation of the medieval Angers Tapestry by a female artist in 500 years.

Irene, who is based in Melbourne and London and whose works are held in collections in Australia and throughout the world, says she was inspired at the turn of this century when “a ripple of apprehension seemed to move out around the globe”. She continues: “I stood in front of the Angers Tapestry of the Apocalypse in France around the same time; its scale, complexity and poetry were overwhelming. In that moment I imagined a new work of art, one that would be radiant and glowing, a massive new articulation of the book of the Apocalypse also in tapestry.”

Using cutting-edge nano-particle technology in its threads, her extensive research for her materials at RMIT Design Research Institute has enabled the tapestry to emit in darkness for up to eight hours.

Of the effect, Irene says it is “something that would envelope and immerse people in light; a work which would be experienced and ‘read’ in multiple ways, a new uncovering of an ancient text combining lineages of tradition and contemporary cutting-edge technology.”

After showcasing the artwork at part of Canterbury Festival, Barberis’ work will be touring museum and cathedral spaces across Europe, the UK and the USA. For more information, click here.


Apocalypse Tapestry photo by Manfred Heyde.

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