The Crimson Carpet - Government House, Sydney
Scottish born Valerie Kirk, who studied tapestry and design at the Edinburgh College of Art and Goldsmith's College, London, was awarded the commission to design the carpet for Government House, Sydney as part of the To Furnish the Future project.
She described the design process:
The starting point for the design process was spending time at Government House, studying the elaborate, formal interior with its layering of history and the magnificent exterior of the building. I looked at the surrounding environment - vibrant formal gardens, sandstone foreshores, the harbour and changing sky.
In the nearby Museum of Sydney, on the site of first Government House, I was inspired by an image of the house on a cleared area of land carved from the bush with sandstone and sea in the foreground. The picture is a forceful reminder of the colonisation of Australia and our ongoing relationship to the land. Returning to the house, I made detailed studies considering aesthetics, relationship of the layered history of elements within the building, functionality, changing ideas of interior fashion/taste/ style, colour and scale.
My intention is to present carpet designs which sit well aesthetically within Government House. They complement the Lyon, Cottier & Co 1879 ceiling decorations reflecting their basis of geometric structure and sense of circular movement/spot patterns. However, my designs do not attempt to mimic or copy the existing decor, as this would detract from it. 'The carpets and rugs will be evidence of this period in time by their design and production technology. They will be an extension of my existing work in tapestry design and weaving as I can bring my conceptual/design skills and knowledge of materials and processes to the project. It is important that the carpet should hold meaning and content appropriate to the history and place in our political and social map of Government House.
The carpet is a single image developed from the textures and patination of natural elements surrounding Government House. It reflects the elements, ageing and weathering. The colour is vibrant. mid to dark tones of a crimson palette derived from looking at the Waratah.
The design is contemporary in its refined and sophisticated use of colour/tone, providing minimal distraction from the existing historic elements of the interior. Its strength and boldness is in its simplicity and ability to provide a warm, welcoming and comforting element in the formal rooms.
The collaboration with Valerie Kirk, regarded as an 'important international figure in the world of contemporary tapestry', is exciting and challenging as the HHT seeks to achieve a balance of the 'new' and the 'old'.