Ann Sutton OBE is an internationally recognised artist whose work transcends traditional boundaries between the crafts and the fine arts. Her consistently evolving oeuvre appears in public collections including Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of Wales, and the Crafts Council. She made her name as a weaver in the 1960s, then as a textile artist, but is today best understood simply as an artist.
Specific media have never been a constraint for Ann Sutton. She has worked in everything from fibre to filament, from paint to Perspex, across a variety of scales. When in her early days she heard a senior and much-fêted craftsman declare -scoffingly- that modern weavers would even work with barbed wire if they could, a young Sutton interrupted from the lecture hall: “Why not?”
With Ann Sutton it is not the material but the idea that really counts. Intellectually, she has been associated – by The Tate among others – with the constructivist movement, but she has always denied specific influences and allegiances. If there is a continuing thread through her work, though, it is her foundation in weaving. As the title of the documentary film about her, screened by the British Library in 2022, declares: “My Bones Are Woven.”
Sutton was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1935. She trained at Cardiff College of Art, returning as Visitor, and subsequently teaching at the West Sussex College of Art, and at the Glamorgan Summer School at Barry, South Wales. She has also been a part-time lecturer at the Royal College of Art, of which she is now a Senior Fellow. At the same time, she pursued her own studio work in Banbury, at Parnham House in Dorset, and most recently in her own flat and studio in Arundel, West Sussex, from which she presented the five-part BBC television series The Craft of the Weaver, in addition to launching the Ann Sutton Foundation. She was awarded the OBE for Services to the Arts in 2022.
Ann Sutton’s Arundel base has also been home to her own art collection, some of which is now being made available in this sale. Typically for Sutton, this ranges from fine art to craft and to furniture. The range is remarkable, but a common connection is her discerning eye. She has always been a keen spotter of (what were then) emerging talents, in parallel with buying and commissioning work from friends including Jim Partridge and three generations of the Frost family. The many associated stories are noted by Sutton in this catalogue.
Change has been a constant in Ann Sutton’s life and career. In 2010, for example, she disposed of all her looms in a process she called “clearing the decks” to make space for new artistic ventures, some of which appeared in her solo show at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, in 2022. Clearing the decks of her current art collection is part of that continuing process.
The critic Tanya Harrod wrote in the March 2023 Apollo magazine that the boundaries between fine and art craft: “are only now being properly challenged”, and cited Sutton’s work as part of that overdue movement. The same might be said of her collection, too.
- Professor Richard Howells, 2023 Ann Sutton
From ceramics to glass, silversmithing to jewellery, textiles to furniture making, crafts have played a complicated and multifaceted role in the cultural, social and art historical history of contemporary Britain that has sometimes been overlooked. During the last few decades, the distinctions between art, design and modern craft have become increasingly blurred. Crafts' growing significance was demonstrated over the pandemic, as the number of buyers of contemporary craft increased by over 270% whilst over the last 15 years, craft sales in Britain alone have tripled to over £3 billion.
In particular, its growing importance is recognised by a younger audience keen to invest in physical disciplines, the artists and their stories. In a world often revolving around the impersonal, modern craft objects have become a conduit for the imagination in our homes, and there has been a growing transformation of outlook concerned with the importance placed on the integrity of the material and ideas.
0207 930 9115