Book of Hours

By Patricia Bentley, 2002

From January until June of 2002, artist Patrick Mahon was invited to spend time researching textiles in the Textile Museum's collection. As a response to his extended encounters with textile objects - many of which were printed pieces that fascinated the artist whose training is in printmaking - Mahon developed this artist's curatorial project. The title for the exhibition refers to a Christian prayer book. In choosing it, the artist noted the following:

“I was thinking about the practice whereby the daily life of a monk is structured around regulated hours for prayer. This seemed analogous to my experience of doing research in the collection at the Textile Museum of Canada on a sustained basis. My involvement in looking at the objects was quiet, slow and continuous. It lasted over a period of many months, but rather than being a daily, or hourly 'devotional,' it took place according to a bi-weekly schedule."

For Book of Hours Patrick Mahon chose to display several printed textiles, each bearing the paisley or “boteh” motif (as it is called in India). Mahon explained his thinking about the relationship between the icon and the subject of time in this way:

“My focusing on the paisley or boteh motif brings several kinds of ideas into play. One centres on the recurrence of particular icons and motifs across cultures. This points not to a synchronicity but rather to the fact that over the ages (often due to colonization) patterns and symbols move from culture to culture. Many textile researchers and anthropologists have traced the paths that show how such movements take place - over time. Another link between the motif and time is more intuitive. It involves the concentric lines and patterns that form the boteh, which seem to suggest a kind of spiralling action - an object turning in on itself. This kind of entropic movement seems a wonderful model for representing slow transitions.

Viewers of the exhibition are invited to claim a free postcard that bears two images of paisleys from the collection, upon which Patrick Mahon based the large-scale stamped drawings featured on the wall of the gallery. The artist has included such giveaways in several of his previous exhibitions; for Book of Hours he described his thinking about such souvenirs as follows:

“For some time I have been committed to giving people a gift, an antidote to the possibility that very often, after having a contemplative experience in the gallery, people rush to the gift shop to purchase something in order to confirm the reality of their experience.

“In this situation the postcards also act as 'time-cards.' They are already stamped with a 'minute,' so people are invited to walk away with a little piece of time. It's not exactly my time they can take away - that's gone - instead, it's their own marker of an instant to be retained.”

From the notebooks of Patrick Mahon describing the pieces and the amount of time spent looking at each one:


April 2, 2002

  • Paisley shawl; brown with strong red, green, blue-grey, yellow
  • Diamond-shaped areas
  • Rectangular inner border
  • 18 minutes


April 2, 2002

  • Multi-coloured shawl; printed on wool?
  • Sewn in centre
  • Botehs/paisleys
  • Rectangular borders
  • 15 minutes


January 24, 2002

  • Large cotton with printed brown line and dyed blue, red, taupe
  • One side cut
  • Paisleys on ends
  • Photographed back as well
  • One half-hour


March 14, 2002

  • Red embroidered cloth (faded)
  • Back with striped centre panel: red with interlocking paisleys
  • Gold, blue, brown border
  • Green edge
  • 22 minutes


February 8, 2OO2

  • “International Women's Decade1985”
  • “Hishuna (sic?) Kwa Wanwake1985”
  • (Int'l Women's Year UN-1985)
  • * Badly printed (green on yellow)
  • Map of Kenya
  • Paisleys
  • 13 minutes


February 8, 2002

  • “ICAE DAR ESALAAM 21-26 June 1976”
  • Black and blue on white
  • Stylized paisleys - polka dots
  • Round cornered tag/medallions with heads, book, tree
  • 16 minutes

© 2007 Textile Museum of Canada