Primrose Hill artist Michal Cole on transforming her paintings into woven masterpieces

PUBLISHED: 14:56 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:11 12 April 2018

Michal Cole is an Israeli artist living in Primrose Hill.

Michal Cole is an Israeli artist living in Primrose Hill.


“It’s actually bringing these paintings back into what they used to be in the Renaissance times – as tapestries.”

'After Caravaggio' by Primrose Hill artist Michal Cole, for Knots Rugs.'After Caravaggio' by Primrose Hill artist Michal Cole, for Knots Rugs.

“I’m a masochist,” Michal Cole tells me, with a laugh, as she describes the process through which she creates her paintings. In sessions of up to 16 hours, she works non-stop replicating the work of master painters. Then, before the paint has dried, she ‘destroys’ them.

What’s more, she will go through this process several times, until she arrives at a result she is happy with. 
It is a method she says is “liberating” but one which also involves “grieving”. It would best be described as creative destruction.

For her collaboration with Knots Rugs founder Bonnie Sutton, they selected two of these paintings – ‘Roses’ and ‘After Carvaggio’ – painstakingly transforming them into striking woven pieces to adorn the walls, or the floor, of your home.

It was her fusion of the style, work ethic and attention to detail of the old masters with a fiercely contemporary irreverence that brought Michal and Bonnie together. “I choose laborious work, to take things to the extreme,” she explains.

Michal Cole's second collaboration with Knots Rugs, based on her painting 'Roses'.Michal Cole's second collaboration with Knots Rugs, based on her painting 'Roses'.

A masochist she may be, and there is an anarchic spirit at work here, but Michal has a deep love for her work, despite her willingness to destroy it. 
In fact, one thing which attracted her to the collaborative project with Bonnie was the fact that transforming her pieces into fabric, once ‘destroyed’, added a third layer in which they were re-created.

“I really like to work with fabrics,” she says. “I do a lot of work with fabric and do tapestries. It’s actually bringing these paintings back into what they used to be in the Renaissance times – as tapestries.”

Michal’s past work in this vein has included an installation at 2017’s Venice Biennale, where she transformed 27,000 second-hand neckties – one of the most recognised symbols of patriarchal capitalism – into “the classic gentleman’s living room”, stitching them together to construct the space.

“I was very interested in custom and costume; the idea that people wear certain things to behave a certain way – the social mask.

“It’s interesting too because it’s a very masculine room, but there were actually five women working on this installation. It was 15 hours a day with five women in the room, so we had a lot of fun.

“It was painstaking, but it was a team effort. Everything that artists do is a team effort in some way, with the exception perhaps of painting.”

It is certainly true of her creations for Knots Rugs. Having selected the colours “nearly thread by thread” for her pieces to be mapped out and re-created, workshops in Nepal and Jaipur get to work crafting the rugs, using Tibetan highland wool, Bikaner Wool, Chinese silk and nettle.

Despite the time-consuming, intense nature of the process, for Michal it is clearly a labour of love, and her collaboration with Knots Rugs is one she has enjoyed immensely.

“It was a marriage made in heaven,” she says. “We have the same visual taste and the same passions and knowledge of art history.”

So does she envisage working together in the future?

“Definitely! I would love to make some tapestries with some of my other Caravaggio paintings – that could work fantastically well.”

To see the full collection visit Knots Rugs’ website.

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