Richard Tuttle is many things. He told us at the press viewing of his new exhibition, I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language, which is a combined exhibition with the Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery.
Tuttle tells us that he sees himself as a ‘mystic’ and a massive proponent of experience. His work is an incorporation of sculpture and textile, which is nicely manifested through his interest in collecting textiles and fabrics from all over the globe.
This is purposefully displayed at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, which has just been unveiled this week; coincidentally, the same time London Frieze week commenced as well.
Tuttle talks openly about his work in a calm and thoughtful manner. He is a peaceful man who willingly discloses all ideas that go on in his over-experienced mind. Now 73 years old, Tuttle tells us everything from his perception of cubism, the Vietnam War, fashion and even opera.Tuttle, the creative from New Jersey, US, firmly believes that textiles are the fabric of life and in many ways weave in and out of our lives.
Not one for directly answering a question, Tuttle told me how love is exchanged in the fashion and clothing he wears and it’s interesting to note that he dresses in a distinctive way; depicting his passion for pastiche within textiles. On this day, our mystic donned navy Converse trainers and a pair of half pink floral Givenchy trousers, which he admitted, to me, were cheap.This large sculpture is a testament of Tuttle’s life work, which breathes his belief that textiles and, interchangeably, language play a significance part in our history and day-to-day lives.
When we arrived at The Whitechapel gallery, press were given the opportunity to ask Tuttle questions. One journalist asked, rather, harshly, ‘Why textiles? Come on, as a young boy?’ Cautiously Tuttle thought and muffled as he came up with the his answer on the spot. “I was embarrassed by being a textile collector” he confessed.
He told us of the difficulty of expressing his interest in textile to his family, whilst growing up. He then took us through a trail of textile weaving and manufacturing. ‘Who does the man-made fibres? It’s the man. And who does the weaving? It’s also the man but, textile has a feminine side as well.’
Tuttle then arrived at his favorite notion about space and his artworks’ engagement with it. It’s also about ‘who can capture the most space in their weaving?’, he tells us and, finally, exclaimed, ‘My art is gender-free!’
Tuttle is an eccentric artist but which artist isn’t? The words that came out of his mouth were enlightening. It was as if every statement he said could have been neatly framed (and threaded) in a philosophy textbook. As he told some of us about the human experience and wondered if we were sharing a ‘new’ experience with him, I walked away not only knowing his favorite opera was La bohème, but that he undoubtedly affected, almost, everyone in the Whitechapel gallery that afternoon – whether he influenced them in a good or bad way is another story.