What happens when you bring together science, art and a medieval wonder? For Dr Irene Barberis, it’s the culmination of almost 20 years of imagining.
A spectacular illuminated tapestry created by the RMIT researcher and artist – a reimagination of the famous 14th century Anger Apocalypse Tapestry – will be unveiled this month at Brussels Cathedral.
The large-scale tapestry uses phosphorescent nano-pigment particles to recreate with light the historically significant medieval tapestry, which represents the biblical Book of Revelations.
Barberis' creation, Tapestry of Light: Intersections of Illumination, is a glowing 36 metre work that features elements of the original tapestry's 90 scenes.
In Brussels, the exhibition has been curated by Emeritus Professor Michelle Brown, former Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the University of London and a former Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library.
After Belgium, the work is set to travel around museums and cathedrals in Europe, UK and the US, with its next stop being Canterbury Cathedral in October.
A Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Barberis said the inspiration to create the artwork came from her first visit to the Anger Apocalypse Tapestry in France in 1998.
“I had traveled there to see the famous tapestry as part of completing my PhD thesis, which was an examination of the abstract and figurative elements of the tapestry and its representations,” she said.
“Once there, the complexity and the poetry of the experience, combined with my resultant immersion into the scenes of the apocalypse, was incredible.
“And as I continued to look on, I started to think about what it might be like to do a reimagining of this significant artwork – and one potentially done all in light.”
Nineteen years later and with Tapestry of Light: Intersections of Illumination set to launch on a global tour, Barberis is now one of the few female artists who has tackled the full cycle of the apocalypse in an art form.
And through a combination of technology and art, the artist has enabled the unique experience of the apocalypse to be viewed across three dimensions.
“The visitor’s first glimpse will be up-close and in natural light, where a connection can be formed with the tapestry despite its large scale,” she said.
“And then as the natural light switches to ultraviolet, the tapestry images become much more dramatic and intense – a sense of drama is introduced to the composition.
“Finally, and once all of the light has disappeared, the tapestry begins to glow with phosphorous lights created through illumination thread.”
The technology at the centre of Barberis' unique creation was designed and developed by former RMIT Professor David Mainwaring.
The tapestry was woven at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium, a well-known tapestry maker for many prominent artists including Grayson Perry and Damien Hirst.
Story: Karen Matthews