The Watchers (a Dog) IV
The Watchers (a Dog) IV (2020)

Bio, articles and artwork information

Tamlin Blake holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of Stellenbosch, is an associated artist with Everard Read Gallery and the Chief Curator for the Spier Arts Trust. She has had nine solo exhibitions to date, the most recent being Tied By Time, CIRCA, Johannesburg (2019).

Her work has been included in various exhibitions including at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Bratislava (2007), Kaunas Art Biennial TEXTILE 07 in Lithuania (2007), South African Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China and presented as a Spier Special Project at the FNB Joburg Art Fair in 2012. More recently her work was included in “Women’s Work: Constructing Stories, Subverting Narratives”, at iZiko South African National Gallery (2016/17) and in “Material Gains”, a selection of artworks from the Spier Collection held at the Stellenbosch Museum (2018).

Tamlin's work can be found in various corporate and public collections including Iziko Art Collections, Erma Stern Museum, Meulensteen Collection, Ellerman House and Spier Holdings Contemporary Art Collection.

For a CV please visit:



Curatorial Statement


Tamlin Blake: “Tied by Time”

By Olga Speakes

Tamlin Blake’s monumental tapestry installation is akin a Renaissance fresco in its magnitude of scale, the sweeping drama of its thematic conception and the brilliance of its detail. Through a series of five scenes spread over 6 panels, the first of which is suspended from a giant wooden loom, the artist is taking us on a historical journey that spans several hundred years while at the same time managing to weave a personal story that draws the viewer into the private world of her imagination, personal histories and concerns that also speak to the wider anxieties, hopes and fears of our times.

The project that took the artist four years to complete was set up as an enquiry into the fourth industrial revolution, a phenomenon characterized by much media and political hype and little common understanding of either its scope or its potential impact on our every day lives.

From panel to panel the artist invites us to follow her on an epic journey that connects the past, the present and the future. The starting point for the journey into the past, and the first tapestry in the installation, takes the viewer to the symbolic historical events of the eighteenth century when the modernization of the textile industry through use of steam and other technological innovations lead to the first industrial revolution. It altered both the physical landscape and the social fabric of the human world ushering in, along with economic gains, social alienation and loss of livelihoods, destruction of the countryside and loss of family ties. Her second panel continues to reference the history of industrial progress with the invention of electricity, i.e the second industrial revolution, and then, the introduction of automation and conveyor belt production. The next phase of our society’s development, the computer age and the digital revolution associated with it, is referenced in the next panel with its ambiguous library like wall that reveals its digital make up on closer inspection.

Walking from panel to panel following the thread of the story, the viewer embarks on an actual journey through the installation that is set up as a path where a new chapter opens up as we move along. On the one hand, Blake offers us a bird’s eye view of History and this view comes to us with the advantage of knowing both the gains of industrial progress and its costs; personal, social and environmental. On the other hand, this view is deeply personal to the artist and it becomes personal to us as we physically make our way through the work.

Addressing the personal, intimate, human aspects of history is central to Blake’s practice. The artist weaves herself into the sweeping story of progress on several levels. Her own questioning presence is implied through the image of the protagonist in the first tapestry. In the original mythological story the heroine Penelope is able to hold the relentless advance of unwanted suitors (and the development of history) at bay by weaving her own tapestry by day and unpicking whatever progress she had made, by night.  A beautiful young woman holding a thread in the first panel references Penelope as the un-raveller of history and at the same time appears to us as the artist herself, in her double role of the story teller and the subject of history which no one can escape. She seems to question the advance of technology and sees it as both enriching and threatening our world consigning whole industries, practices and ways of life to the past. The use of tapestry, hand woven by the artist and her studio assistants from the thread that is hand spun and hand dyed using cut up newspapers, sets up the tension between the familiar celebratory accounts of progress and technological development and a sense of nostalgia, mental disquiet and loss.

These are not just premonitions based on the fear of the unknown, although those anxieties are also present in the work, especially in the forth panel, the most personal and lyrical of them all, that references artists’ own children whose future along with our own we are trying to figure out in this intricately complex work. The unsettled feeling that Blake creates disrupts the neat flow of history as progress. The odd construction of spaces in the first three panels and uncanny details like the baby-doll heads that seem marching and gazing fixedly at us, the clashing decorative patterns of the background that reference the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the late nineteenth century, which also rebelled against technological progress, evoke a sense of the impending danger if not catastrophe. It is the catastrophe that we ourselves may have contributed to in our relentless drive to speed up history in the service of our insatiable desires.

The sense of transience and fragility of our existence is another key theme that occupies that artist and that is evoked in her unique technique where shreds of newspapers, that hold innumerable human stories and become obsolete the moment they come out, are dyed and spun into tapestry thread. The uncertainty of the future, which is encoded in the figures of the children in the fourth and fifth panels, youthful and vulnerable, appears balanced by that of the weaver, Penelope, in the first. Their bond and her protective gaze offer us hope in the face of this uncertainty. For as long as Penelope keeps spinning her thread and weaving her tapestry – for as long as the artist is able to keep telling her story through her making – the hope will be kept alive, our world will avoid a fatal collision with its own insatiable appetite for growth and progress, our future will be saved even if it means that some of our cherished beliefs in technology and progress have to be unpicked one thread at a time.


Exhibition statement and review


Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg

Solo Exhibition: 23 August - 7 October 2018


Stealing Beauty is a series of works which have slowly emerged out of the curiosity and wonderment I have felt from two very different influences.

The first was seeing the little known art work of a French mathematician and historian Bernard Bru in a private collection in London. These works are explorations of geometric shapes and planes of complimentary colours which shift in differing tones and ripple over the artworks surface. Bru was interested in painting and sculpture purely as a means to make concrete some of his mathematical concepts and the fact that so little is known about him as an artist makes his work all the more intriguing.

Close on the heels of this abstract and carefully crafted art came all the inherited objects of my grandparents and father. Here is a wealth of sentimental objects which tie me down to a time and place all their own. Some are valuable, most are not but all have the ability to make me reconsider my identity, my family connections and the more general concept of cultural identity. I was at once over whelmed by their ordinariness and particular beauty and curios at the intrigue they hold.

By repeating images we merely reinforce a certain set of ideas. However through assimilation and adaptation these disparate influences are able to come together to form a new own dialogue, to show how ideas change and develop through time and can be assimilated into current thinking.

The ideas in Bru’s work are structured but still playful and I find reinterpreting old concepts or objects through this lens completely engaging. Old, painful or out-of-date ideas and feelings change and grow into a new space of colour and movement.

The use of mosaic and newspaper tapestry continue Blake’s fascination with materials and manipulating new mediums in ways which take them past the merely decorative or prosaic. Objects and spaces are reformed, reimagined and abstracted, echoing the frailty of memory but also representing the development of new dialogues, and the assimilation of changing ideas into current thinking.

Review by Robyn Sassen, 2 October 2018

"Stolen beauty that gives back"

My View by Robyn Sassen and other writers

MEDITATIVE ENERGIES CAN be found in the most unexpected of places and often one needs just to still one’s inner noises and there it is, before you. There’s just one day left of Tamlin Blake’s extraordinary current solo exhibition, but it’s certainly worth changing your plans for.

A heady mix of mosaic and tapestry, this body of 19 works plays with space and illusion, motion and the glory of colour and texture that sits unexpectedly with texture, hard and soft. Blake draws with an impetuous line of thread made of newspaper, that sometimes resonates with subject matter you can recognise and sometimes leaps off into its own direction, driven by an inner sense of poetry.

Either way, the works are quite lovely, revealing a unique facility with line that is woven thread made of paper, and a sense of movement that evokes the work of early futurists from pre-First World War Italy. The press release tells you that the exhibition is about a love for mathematics and trains, but as you immerse yourself in it, you will realise that nothing’s literal here, and it is an overall sense of harmony that reaches into its core. You see the maths, you understand the trains, but you’re wafted away on veins of deep philosophies that infiltrate the material.

It is, however the piece de resistance in one of the gallery spaces that will give you huge pause and that brings all the other wisdoms and gestures together in a rich concatenation of what it takes to be alive and what this exhibition is all about.

There is an old tradition which bleeds into the annals of many cultures. It’s about repairing broken things and creating new patterns where old patterns have been lost. It’s about filling in porcelain cracks with gold, and threading unfinished stories together into new wholes. Blake’s floor work entitled Threaded Floor, which takes up the whole floor of a space in the gallery, does this with an ineffable quietude. The hardness of the mosaic tiles and chips contradicts the sweet values from which the tradition comes, but it’s a work that she made in collaboration with Spier Arts Academy that immediately gives you peace, just by dint of your being there, near it.

The two rooms in the gallery between which Blake’s Stealing Beauty spills articulates a meditative energy which will leave you feeling cleansed. Make time today or tomorrow. Because life is short and you deserve it.



"​Tamlin Blake reflects on ‘Drilling for Water’ in drought stricken Riebeek West"

Written by Louise McCann, article: December 14, 2016

Tamlin Blake is a multi-media artist whose works revolve around cross-cultural South African symbols of wealth and status, and more recently, what constitutes and underpins each individual’s sense of belonging and identity. Working primarily with textiles, the artist’s work spans tapestry, beadwork, and now with her Drilling for Water series, Tamlin has entered the realm of ceramics. 

In Drilling for Water, Tamlin speaks out about water scarcity issues in a series of beautifully abstract Half Squares. We spoke with the Riebeek West artist to find out more about her process and what inspired her latest artistic series. 

‘Drilling for Water I’ at Nando’s Corlett Drive.

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"Tamlin Blake for Half Square"

VISI article September 30, 2016

In the Summer 2016 issue of VISI, you’ll find the story of local artist Tamlin Blake who has created a three-part series of Half Square ceramic artworks inspired by water scarcity issues in Riebeek West. Below we get a glimpse into the process.
Drilling for Water II by Tamlin Blake, a Half Square ceramic tile site-specific installation at Nando’s Chadstone in Melbourne, Australia.


Collaboration is integral to the creating of the architectural scale Half Square works. Pictured below is the team involved in creating Drilling for Water II.


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PRESS RELEASE: 'Altered Yarns' by Tamlin Blake at Spier Wine Estate - March 2012

SA stories weave through recycled tapestries

On 08 March 2012, an exhibition by Tamlin Blake, ‘Altered Yarns’ will launch at Spier in the new wine tasting venue. In this exhibition Blake will present a series of limited edition prints and tapestries woven from recycled, handspun newspaper. A new Spier publication ‘Tamlin Blake’ will also be launched. Blake’s tapestry artworks will form part of the Spier Collection, while the prints and publication will be available for purchase. 
While many venues at Spier continue to exhibit art from the estate’s expansive permanent collection, this dedicated exhibition will offer visitors the opportunity to a view the latest art acquisition and experience Spier’s award-winning wine paired with innovative food offerings.  The new venue, on the banks of the Spier dam, has beautiful views of the Helderberg mountains. 
Created by Blake over an extended and labour-intensive period of time, the collection of tapestry artworks are created from sheets of newspaper that are transformed into “… coloured ‘yarns’ by dying the paper, cutting it into narrow strips, joining the strips and spinning them on a homemade drop spindle to create a relatively strong, textured thread.”* 
Mirroring this intricate process, Blake’s works explore concepts concerning the many ways in which our lives are shaped by the stories of others. Blake explains her practice, 'I am interested in working, visually and conceptually, with how stories weave themselves around us, influencing what we do and how we think. Without us being aware, the news, gossip and other peoples’ successes and tragedies form the background fabric of our everyday lives. These stories filter through to us, affect our thinking and form the backbone of our society. 
‘Tapestry itself is traditionally a form of story telling. Like the newspaper they are printed on, these used and discarded tales have been reinvented and recycled, woven back and forth in an intricate pattern to form images, which then in turn create a new contemporary narrative.' 
The exhibition will run at the Spier wine tasting venue from 08 March 2012 – 31 May 2012. Open to the public, the launch on 08 March 2012 at 18h30 will offer guests the opportunity to view these artworks for the first time, speak to the artist about her work and purchase the new ‘Tamlin Blake’ Spier publication. 
* Jackie McInnes 2011 (author of the ‘Tamlin Blake’ publication).