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Review: Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug

Here Jane Audas, curator of the exhibition ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre in north Wales, offers insight into the impressive show display. Such an extensive collection of rugs designed in the British Isles can rarely be seen in one location, so this event is an important one for rug designers in the UK.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

‘A contemporary rug exhibition in a public gallery is a lesser-spotted occurrence these days. ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’, is an exhibition I co-curated with Gregory Parsons. Rugs by nineteen new and established makers are freshly hung at Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales and can be seen there until 14 July. ‘Under Your Feet’ is a celebration of rug making from a craft perspective. All but two of the rugs in the exhibition are hung on the walls, as is right and proper in a gallery setting. And in Ruthin’s gleaming white modernist space the effect is bold and beautiful, varied, vital and foot-warming.

Rugs by Angie Parker on display at 'Under Your Feet'.

Rugs by Angie Parker on display at ‘Under Your Feet’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Smaller rugs in the exhibition range from earthy, visceral rugs by Rachel Scott (who also spins her own wool) and fluctuating, striped (with a hint of lurex) stunners by Angie Parker, to serene, thoughtful colour experiments by Alan Oliver.

Carpets by Adam Higton on display at ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre.

Carpets by Adam Higton on display at ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre.

The illustrative side of rug design is highlighted too: Lesley Barnes shows a rug designed for NODE, with a repeat pattern of birds that might have flown over from mid-century Scandinavia. And Adam Higton has made nine playful squares in his bold, colourful drawing style. Then Andrew Ludick’s round rug for Ceadogán Rugmakers provides further pop in terms of pattern and colour and references the bright ceramics he also makes.

Lime Sun by Andrew Ludick, Bragan by Helen Steele on display at ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre.

Lime Sun by Andrew Ludick, Bragan by Helen Steele on display at ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre.

In the mid-sized category are rugs by Margo Selby, offering masterly textured lines, circles and block colours to die for. A Mourne Textile rug in stripes of thick, satisfying wool first woven in 1951, sits next to subtle patternings by the dame of rugs: Helen Yardley, although one is in a most unsubtle fuchsia pink.

'Force 2' and 'Zumba' by Helen Yardley on display at 'Under Your Feet' at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

‘Force 2’ and ‘Zumba’ by Helen Yardley on display at ‘Under Your Feet’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Claire Gaudion’s geo triangle rug in ice cream-soft colours is complimented diagonally (across the gallery) by the tight geometry of Eleanor Pritchard’s tessellated rug for Case. And an injection of colour is provided by Patricia Murphy’s abstract bolt-of-blue rug, and Helen Steele’s vivid and bouncy slashes of colour (both for Ceadogán Rugmakers).

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Pulling all this variety together, Ptolemy Mann has several rugs in the exhibition, providing dip-dyed shots of colour both on the wall, and hanging underneath a skylight.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at Sotheby’s, London, 29 January–4 February 2019.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

The bigger rugs here run from Tania Johnson’s shifting, sun drenched rug to several showcasing Christopher Farr’s inimitable output: a bold Collett-Zarzycki rug in undulating stripes and slashes of orange; a huge, classic Kate Blee rug, with a heavy symbolism about it. And a rug by relative newcomer Irene Infantes, with a delicate motif and a peacefulness about its design.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Finally (although it is the first rug in the exhibition) a long runner drawn by Gunta Stölzl in 1937 (but only just made real by Farr’s this year) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the forming of the Bauhaus in Germany. The weaving studio at the Bauhaus produced some of the most experimental patterns of the twentieth century and that legacy can be seen in the freedom makers today have with techniques, patterns and materials.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Rug by Ptomlemy Mann on display at ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

There is only one rug in this exhibition that you can walk on: a Ptomlemy Mann rug in purples and yellows. So that, should you wish, you can feel a rug Under Your Feet.’

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Installation shot of ‘Under Your Feet’ contemporary rugs on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, north Wales, 6 April–14 July 2019.

Exhibition ends on 14 July 2019.

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