GEORGIAN ENAMELS: PIECING TOGETHER A NEW NARRATIVE – WORK REVEALED

It has been rather a hectic last few weeks, finishing work, installing the exhibition and since it has opened, following up local and national press interest. Craft and Design magazine printed a lovely double page spread in the May/June 2015 issue.

The exhibition consists of eight cases and an interpretation wall that explains the important role community workshops had in developing the initial narratives for the work. Four cases contain the new contemporary satirical craftwork, #Chaterama, Voyeur Viewer and Tinderbox, Keeping up with the Farqhar-Smithes, and Snuffed out Charlotte. A fifth holds a selection of the eighteenth century enamel fragments that were selected for the project but not used in the final objects. The remaining cases illustrate the use of satire in contemporary culture, containing Spitting Image puppets and related ceramic ephemera loaned to the museum by Michael Dixon of the National Puppetry Archive.

Bantock Exhibition 1

Each body of satirical craftwork consists of multiple objects, a combination of eighteenth century enamel fragments from the Wolverhampton Council’s collection and new enamel made by myself. By fusing the aesthetics and narratives of the eighteenth century with contemporary making and thinking, I have made a series of faux Georgian objects that satirise and critique contemporary culture.

#Chaterama is a Georgian ‘messaging’ machine. Two Georgian enamel finches are juxtaposed with six new tweeting blue birds. In my reimagined history, guests at eighteenth century dinner parties used the device to ‘message’ each other. People would ‘pre-purchase’ enamel discs with messages of their choice. At the party these would be hidden under the birds and the intended recipient invited to turn the handle, lifting the birds and revealing the message. The Georgian aesthetic used on the object has been subverted with contemporary references, the handle aping iPhone buttons, the name of the work a nod to David Cameron’s use of the phrase ‘chaterama’, and message discs inscribed with distinctly contemporary language.

#Chaterama #Chaterama (end)

#Chaterama. Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter

Tinderbox and Voyeur Viewer are a pair of objects that use an original enamel escutcheon depicting a courting couple both as inspiration for the work and as a lid to the objects. Voyeurism was as popular in the 18th century as the present and the work is used to make parallels between then and now. In my imaginary eighteenth century the boxes were amusements for gentlemen. The lid is opened by pulling the handle and upon turning titillating or voyeuristic imagery is revealed! The decoration on the boxes follows in the Georgian enamel tradition of embellishing with romantic imagery. Decoration on Tinderbox and Voyeur Viewer uses Georgian enamel decoration subverted with contemporary text speak to describes the imagined story of the couple’s relationship.

Voyeur ViewerTinderbox

Tinderbox closeup

Tinderbox. Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter

Snuffed Out Charlotte consists of two Georgian boxes and three party political rosettes. One Georgian box found in the Wolverhampton collection, depicts King George III and Queen Charlotte on either side of its damaged lid. Interpretation of this cracked dent was the starting point for the new narrative and suggests George has been shot through the heart and Charlotte the head.

Snuffed out Charlotte

Snuffed Out Charlotte (collection). Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter

Snuffed Out Charlotte box

Snuffed Out Charlotte (Box). Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter.

Fascinator

Snuffed Out Charlotte (Fascinator). Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter.

Attempted assassinations and associated rumour mongering were commonplace in the eighteenth century and often used by political parties to gain political advantage. In my imagined world a series of rosettes have been created for the Royals to wear depending on which party they wanted to court favour from. These take imagery from historic Georgian enamels and fuse them with contemporary narrative from the UK general election. A small fascinator in the shape of a rosette was made for Charlotte and placed in the first box. However, a second eighteenth century box, which was missing its original lid, tells a different version of events. Here I have fashioned a new top and decorated this with subverted imagery of George III with a smoking gun and Charlotte with further gun shot wounds. This has been fitted it in the hinge vacated by the original. Perhaps the true story was a crime of passion?

A Georgian enamel plaque depicting a gentleman admiring the remnants of some Classical architecture was the starting point for Keeping up with the Farqhar-Smithes. Then as now, status was derived from owning property and possessions that exemplified ones culture and sophistication.

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Keeping up with the Farquhar-Smithes (closed). Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter.

My faux object is a box that unfolds into a game used by the Georgian elite to ‘swagger’ to friends about their ‘home improvements’. The box uses the plaque as a lid and contains miniature houses, urns and rural idylls. These are revealed when the sides of the box are unfolded to make the board. This is reminiscent of Monopoly and depicts the grounds of a large estate that the miniatures can be placed on in different configurations.

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Keeping up with the Farquhar-Smithes (open). Photograph Dan Haworth-Salter.

The name Farqhar-Smythe was corrupted to reference simultaneously both affluent upper classes and the aspiring masses. I use the object as a means to make comparisons with the contemporary age, property, debt and aspiration.

One of the most exciting aspects of the project has centred on the technical and aesthetic challenges of incorporating 250-year-old objects into contemporary work. Devising methods of attachment that would not damage the precious objects, and exploring ways of combining old and new enamel in a visually coherent way. The aesthetic was achieved by using traditional wet process enamel in combination with painted enamel techniques and ceramic decals. Georgian enamel decoration, was photographed, manipulated in Photoshop to contemporise it and then made into transfers, which were then fired on to the enamel. This resulted in the creation of an aesthetic that to the casual observer looks Georgian but upon closer scrutiny reveals itself to be distinctly modern.

The exhibition runs until the 9th August 2015.

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