Alive with colour

Richard Tuttle goes big and bright with his latest installation at Tate Modern

Usually, work by celebrated American artist Richard Tuttle is relatively small in scale. What are we to make then of his latest piece, a 12m high installation in the Tate Modern’s massive Turbine Hall?

The work is entitled ‘I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language’  and is Tuttle’s largest to date. According to the artist, the installation is about colour and perception, combining natural and man-made fibres in three specially-made fabrics. Certainly what hits the viewer first are the colours – rich, vibrant saffron and crimsons that immediately suggest India and indeed turn out to have been specially dyed in factories there.

Secondly, the eye is drawn to the way the fabric is wrapped. This is intriguing, wound round and round to from a padded crimson sculptural pendant hanging down between suspended wooden platforms that extend down the centre of the hall.

The crimson fabric is variously folded, draped, tucked and ruched, the treatment creating shadows to animate the surface. Look closely and you can see that tiny diamond shapes are cut out of it. In contrast, the wooden platforms are only partially draped in saffron coloured fabric and seem comparatively rather under-dressed, so less satisfying.  

But colour is still the clear winner here, hotting up the cool, neutral environment of the Turbine Hall. The installation is really just the tip of the iceberg, intended to be appreciated as part of a trilogy along with Tuttle’s exhibition at the Whitechapel (until 14 December) and an accompanying publication.


Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language, until 6 April 2015, Tate Modern Turbine Hall, Bankside, London.