6th – 28th August 2016

Part garment, part protection, part disguise…from Dracula to Zorro, the versatile cloak has a long and fascinating history. A new travelling exhibition of woven artworks celebrates the magic and mystery of this iconic garment. Opening at Arts in Oxford on 6 August, “Cloak: Variations on a Theme” brings together some of New Zealand’s most talented weavers for an exhibition that blends imagination, skill and creative flair. Featuring over 30 stunning artworks, including wearable cloaks, wall hangings and sculptures, this new show explores the cloak’s symbolic power through the ages, from ancient mythology to popular culture.

“Cloak” is the brainchild of the Professional Weavers Network, a group of leading weavers from across New Zealand. “The artists in this exhibition are a really diverse group, and we’ve all interpreted the ‘cloak’ theme in different ways,” says Rangiora-based weaver Wilson Henderson. Featured artists range in age from early 40s to a 99-year-old, and many have won major awards and exhibited their work internationally. “To create our own individual designs, we gave some thought to the various uses, shapes and meanings of cloaks through history,” says Henderson. Over the centuries, cloaks have been associated with ceremonial clothing, burial shrouds, science fiction, magic and theatre. Both mystical and practical, this evocative garment has graced the shoulders of Maori leaders, Mediaeval monks, opera buffs, rock stars, villains and superheroes. Inspirations for the artworks on show include the dragons of Norse mythology, the Maori goddess of night Hine-nui-te-, Muslim women’s headwear, and the Crusaders (both the rugby team and the religious zealots of old). Other works take their cue from nature – a rainbow’s glowing arc, the curved fronds of tree ferns, the case moth’s clever layers of camouflage, or the need to protect endangered native birds. Materials range from silk, feathers and harakeke to wool, mohair, leather, linen, beads, plastic and estasi, a light-reflecting synthetic fibre. The result is an enchanting collection of works that shimmer, drape or float, reveal or conceal. From cloak-and-dagger mysteries to religious robes, “Cloak: Variations on a Theme” explores the magic and symbolism of this shape-shifting garment. This vibrant show will appeal to anyone with an interest in art, craft, fashion, design, mythology or the creative imagination.