This is Texere, a collaboration between an artist, a sculptor and a poet. Set into the pavement, a pedestrian zone through the Leeds University campus. The artist, Sue Lawty, and the sculptor Dan Jones gave a talk today, at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, about the work, their choices, inspiration, sources, materials and practicalities.
The piece was commissioned in response, and to draw attention to Mitzi Cunliffe’s sculpture, Man Made Fibre’s which is perched high and in line, on an adjacent building. That arrangement of Portland Stone, which dates back to the ’50’s, with threads nested in a pair of hands, is a homage to the University’s textile heritage and its research into synthetics. Near buildings include The Clothworkers Court (funded by the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers), and the Clothworkers Centenary concert hall. You get the picture. There are also labs nearby where the biocrystallographer, William Astbury, made his first studies of DNA through wool industry sponsored research into its structure, which in turn led to Franklin’s, and Watson & Crick’s findings into the strands of that make up our genes.
Texere is the Latin verb for ‘weave’. The artist spent some time with a professor of mediaeval linguistics and discovered it is the common root of our words ‘text’ and ‘textiles’. The written word and cloth are further linked through the origins of paper in cotton fabrics, tapestries, and words that emphasis the process of giving structure; knit, stitch, suture, tailor, knots, fashion, fabricate. To weave is to create permanence, longevity, connections, whether through words or fibres, that would not otherwise exist.
Texere is integrated into the Lifton Place paving and is a path to Cunliffe’s earlier carving. Following the line of Texere up the steps and above the doorway of the Clothworkers South Building, there is a 3 x 1 metre window, an aperture which shares the same dimensions as the Kilkenny Limestone now underfoot. The blue, Irish rock, with Helen Mort’s words resting within the chiseled weft and warp, now acts as its own window into the industry responsible for many of the surrounding structures.