Saturday, May 1, 2010

Walls Are Talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture

The Whitworth Art Gallery's major exhibition of artists' wallpapers includes work by Andy Warhol (Mao, right), Thomas Demand and Catherine Bertola.
The rolls of paper in this exhibition provide an unprecedented insight into a bold and progressive contemporary art form. Wallpaper has long been thought of as a backdrop to the main event. With so many prominent designers and artists using the medium as their primary method of expression, this exhibition provides a timely exploration of the possibilities and power of print.
Zineb Sedira uses wallpaper patterns to illustrate social inequalities and gender difference from her French-Algerian Islamic perspective.

Une Generation de Femmes, 1997, (above) is a hand screen printed geometric grid referencing the patterns of traditional Islamic wall tiles.
Closer inspection reveals hand written French text hidden within the trellis pattern.
Thomas Demand is one of the foremost conceptual artists working today. His Ivy wallpaper, Efeu, covers the entire South Gallery in addition to being shown in the main exhibition. Based on intricate pieces of paper cut out and photographed to make up a lifelike work of imprisoning beauty so dense that it is suffocating.
Catherine Bertola's Beyond the Looking Glass appears, from a distance to be just that, a frameless mirror on a plain wall that is reflecting patterned wallpaper. Approaching closer reveals the 'looking glass' to be a window onto another room. Beyond this illusory frame a room full of three dimensional wallpapers peels away from the wall as if coming to life and making a bid for freedom.
Accompanying text explains that the work is inspired by fictional wallpapers from classic novels, visualising for the first time wallpapers previously unseen except in the readers imagination.

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