Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Richard Trinder
5:04 PM 9th October 2017

With Great Pleasure - An Exhibition Of Knitwear By Joan Murray

Detail from an 'Apron' design by Joan Murray
Detail from an 'Apron' design by Joan Murray
In the beautiful location of Woodend in Scarborough, textile designer Joan Murray is presenting a selection of work from her 3O-year career in textiles.

It is a fitting venue for Joan as she feels an affinity with Dame Edith Sitwell - a previous occupant of this 19th century Grade II listed Marine Villa. Sitwell's uncompromising approach to her own work and a flamboyant personal style appeal to Joan Murray's creative side.

Joan Murray's Harlequin design
Joan Murray's Harlequin design
Joan herself is inspired by narrative, almost any narrative grabs her attention and she has become an artist in many media types - but internationally renowned for her knitwear.

Constantly buzzing with ideas, Joan has barely a moment to complete one exhibition of her work before she starts working on the next.

Her most recent work, The Harlequin, was inspired by a recent visit to the Louis Vuitton Gallery in Paris.

She had been looking at Picasso's and Karl Hofer's Harlequin paintings and reading the poems of Dame Edith Sitwell. These impressions mingled and emerged in the Harlequin collection made in pieced silk and jacquard knits.

Joan said: "I was excited by painting by Picasso and his themes of harlequins. At the same time I was out in the countryside painting in more gentle colours."

Then, as if to illustrate the way her mind works, she adds a 'comment from left field': "And I love Circuses."

Graduating in textiles from Belfast College of Art, Joan went on to specialise in weaving at Winchester School of Art, then moved sideways into knitting for her MA at the Royal College of Art, London.

Joan Murray's garments have been sold to the collections of the V&A, the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, Brighton and Hove Museum and other institutions, as well as to a growing list of private clients.

Long experience with a wide range of patterns, textures, colours, and yarns means that many decisions are made by instinct as the work takes shape, usually around the idea of a living, moving body.

Wedding dress details
Wedding dress details
Joan continues to knit, but is also now weaving again. This is slower and more contemplative, but equally experimental and just as painterly: the artist draws and paints constantly as her indispensable source of fresh ideas and inspiration. She continues with her drawing, collaging, monoprints, painting and taking photographs - at home in Skipton, in the surrounding landscape and in museums - and encourages all her students to gather and store the visual information all around them.

For example, the intriguing geometry of ordinary things led to a black and white collection, while collage drawings of birds in the RCA conservatory were the basis for the industrially-felted, abstract work.

Joan loves to watch and draw ballet and modern dance. She sees costumes as a key element in any performance, concealing or accentuating the movement of the body and the space it describes. Devising her own collaborative performances - involving photographers, film makers, models and animators - broadens the creative scope of all who take part.

Joan Murray's approach to life in general may be summed up in the words of Edith Sitwell:
"It 's better with all banners flying - isn't it?"