Accredited Professional Member
Valerie Kirk studied art and design at Edinburgh College of Art and was captivated by the creative process/infinite possibilities of the tapestry medium. In 1979 she came to Australia to become a weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, and then worked in all states of Australia before moving to Canberra in 1991 to be the Head of Textiles at the Australian National University, School of Art. Her work from this time focused on what it meant to be a Scottish/Australian in this context.
She is considered to be an important international figure in the world of contemporary tapestry. As an artist, writer, teacher and public figure she has made a significant contribution, forging valuable and tangible links with the Scottish tradition and global field. While actively maintaining her practice as an artist, Kirk’s remarkable capacity for achievement has seen her inspire and lead community tapestry projects, research and write a major thesis on tapestry, direct significant textile projects and create major works. She has held several solo exhibitions and presented her work in USA, Europe, Australia, NZ and SE Asia.
Between 2004-2005 she was commissioned to design and weave three major tapestries to celebrate Nobel Prizes in Science associated with the Australian National University. A further tapestry was commissioned and woven in 2006 featuring the work on small pox and myxomatosis of Professor Frank Fenner. Then in 2015 a fifth tapestry was commissioned on Professor Brian Schmidt’s Nobel Prize work. In the same year Kirk was awarded the Arts ACT Creative Arts Fellowship and she convened the Canberra Centenary Community Tapestry.
Her most outstanding achievement to date is winning the 'To Furnish a Future' carpet design competition in 2006. The selected 'Crimson Carpet' design draws on the natural patination of stone around Government House, Sydney, combining with a palette of crimson from the tonal range in the Waratah flower. The second stage of the project involved working closely with the consulting design team, the Australian company, 'Whitecliffe Imports' and the manufacturers, 'Siam Carpets' in Thailand. The hand tufted carpet measures 8m x 20m and was produced in one piece to fit the rooms.
In 2013 while working on the Arts ACT Creative Arts Fellowship Valerie studied the collection of fossils found at Canowindra and now in the Age of Fishes Museum. Drawing and re-drawing, using information from the exhibits and personal interpretation, she began to evoke an amorphous, changing world. The colour palette establishes an ambiguous space between water, earth and air suggesting the known and the unknown. "Floating Fossil" was selected for the international touring exhibition, "Tapestry Here and Now" and she presented a paper and ran a masterclass at the final exhibition venue, the Holburne Museum, Bath in 2017.
Awards such as the Australia Council New Work grant, ACT Creative Arts Fellowship, Muse Arts Woman of the Year Award and the Canberra Centenary Community Tapestry project mark substantial success and her artwork is documented in the Telos Portfolio Collection publication.
Image Courtesy of the Artist