UNIT: 3 Interdisciplinary project – Written documentation
Wallpaper as language in art and design
My research is collected through different sources. It focuses on to understand wallpaper design, its history and its links to spaces we inhabit. Over years wallpaper has been used to decorate the interiors of most intimate places and to study wallpaper history – it is like to study the changes in fashion, taste, industry, trade and technology.
The reason I chose to follow this theme is to assimilate the nature of my work that has taken significant ideas about pattern, Also my growing interest to explore the relation painting and design share became the initiative behind the project.
Information collected [What and How I did]
I started my research via reviewing a range of museum archive and exhibition collection. For that I contacted two institutions:
MODA - Museum of domestic design and architecture
The museum of Domestic design and architecture (MODA) manifest on the historical local Britain design and architecture,
During my two days visit, I met Zoe Hendon : Head of the museum collection. She mentioned to me several best collection of affordable wallpapers aimed at middle and working class between 19th - 20th centuries.
Most of our conversation was centred around several seminal works published, contributing to wallpaper history such as :
Collection of A Popular Art: British Wallpaper in 1930-1960, and “The decoration of the suburban Villa, 1880-1940”, exhibitions from the Silver Studio Collection held in 1989 and 1983 respectively. This collection of advertisements and magazine was a response to the increasing trend when people began undertaking decorative tasks by themselves.
Zoe even mentioned how the collection is often been used by designers like,
Sonic Wallpapers: A collaborated project with Sound artist Dr Felicity Ford , it explores the dreamlike dimension to human responses to wallpapers. The result is a series of innovative sound art pieces based on interviews and field recordings. Her work expands by drawing our ears into a context which has historically been shown in pure visual terms. Here I tried gather as many visual inspiration and photograph as possible. Moreover the collection has enabled me to make sense of the original trends, material and processes involved.
Visit to Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester.
In march I visited the Whitworth art gallery to look at their selected artist wallpaper collection which were on display in the Gallery for an ongoing exhibition “Bodies of Colour”,
The exhibition is grouped around themes of racism, cultural conflicts and gender, history, and sexuality. Although many of these designs could still decorate a living room. Zineb Sedira does so.
Wallcovering of Zineb Sedira Design
Details from the work Une Generation de Femmes, 1997
Zineb Sedira uses wallpaper patterns to illustrate social inequalities and gender difference from her French-Algerian Islamic perspective. Her fascination for the relationship between mother and daughter, depicts three generations of women in work “ Une Generation de Femmes”, 1997.
This made me realize that wallpaper is not always a harmless backdrop. Developed within colonialism and industrial capitalism, it has been a ready reflector of social visual histories as well. When so many prominent designers and artists using the medium as their primary method of expression, this exhibition provides me potential exploration of possibilities and influences of print.
Further on contacting Wallpaper History society, they connected me to Matthew Meadows - a committee member of the society and also runs a small unit called Brixton Print shed in London.
Working studio at Brixton Print shed
On my short meeting, Matthew explained me the technical aspect of wallpaper design, that involved screen printing, Block printing, paints and materials. When I showed him my paintings he asked me to maintain a colour analysis notebook, while it will help me keep a record and produce similar tones in future.
I found it endearing when he described his recent work imbued by his days spent working in prison titled “Razorwire” using a very hard printing technique- Irise print.
Two colour versions of Razorwire , 2019
Similarly when I visited William Morris society as part of London craft week I got the chance to meet Allyson Mc Dermott for her lecture and workshop.
Allyson McDermott during the workshop
She is a historian and conservator. Her work ranges from designing and printing to conservation, restoration and the hanging of wallpapers. Much of her conservation works has been in Brighton Pavilion and The Palace of Westminster but she says it’s an equal privilege from creating decorative wallcoverings for private houses like,18 Stafford terrace and Emery Walker house.
When I asked her what makes wallpaper conservation different from other art, to which She says : Wallpaper conservation has the same methodology as that of fine art. They’re images on paper or other surface, subjected to the same processes of age and decay, but wallpaper is archaeological. While changing over time, wallpaper has defined things happened in the history and spaces.
In the lecture Allyson explained investigative techniques used to identify the pigments, papers, varnishes and processes used. On Asking question on how she manages to maintain the historic visual sense of the paper, she replied - Where documentation fails, sampling provides the evidence. They extract small, old paper flakes from a stripped room, then pulls apart the fibres to assess them. Each type of wallpaper will be matched through a consultation with the artisan papermakers. Continuing….. conservation is a scientific process. Colours get identified not by their original appearance but through finding familiarity with the effects of time and crazing of once-fresh hues by using polarising microscope.
From the workshop that involved grounding the handmade paper to making a handmade flock technique wallpaper. The talk concluded with a tour of emery walker house focusing on Allyson conservation of the Morris wallpaper.
The museum (MODA) has asked me to share with them a report/work I produce as an outcome from the research to publish it on their blog.
It has led me the curiosity to follow up the research by opening new possibilities in design field to create my own inventory of patterns.
Moreover I am interested in to study conservation in architecture & interiors on a short course after graduating.