Throughout history, wallpaper has generally been thought of as background rather than foreground – it is the ephemeral, decorative element to a room. For most of history, wallpaper has been disregarded as an art form as wallpaper is my its very nature often imitation, designed to look like something else – tapestry, velvet, chintz, silk drapery, linen, wood, masonry, a mural. Once hailed as opulent and fashionable, with the invention of machine printing in the 19th century, a change in attitude put wallpaper within the reach of the majority and this become commonplace. Unlike other elements of the home, such as furniture, wallpaper is not passed on from generation to generation – as time passes it is covered, hidden.
Following on from ‘Shelf, Light, Fly’, I chose to use wallpaper because of its inherent associations with domestic life. Putting this new, digital wallpaper at the forefront, I felt it was appropriate to display a single sheet to differentiate from the home environment and to contextualise this piece as art. In contrast to Victorian wallpaper which was often created from specially grown flower specimens, my wallpaper pattern was constructed from artificial flowers, mass produced in China. Scanning these in high-resolution, I created a pattern which bears reference to that of a traditional, modest design.
I had always intended to offset the order of the wallpaper with natural matter in a chaotic fashion, to suggest the real world isn’t that ideal. In earlier sketches, this was intended to be using flowers although, in relation to the flowers themselves – and indeed my practice – butterfly specimens seemed most appropriate.
Obvious comparisons can be seen between my work and that of Damien Hirst, but actually, I think this is far too much of an easy comparison to make. Hirst’s first Kaleidoscope painting was created in 2001, inspired by a Victorian tea tray – arranged with precision, his pieces are made by arranging thousands of different coloured butterfly wings in intricate geometric patterns.
Unlike Hirst, my butterflies are chaotic and disorganised, grouped in a random pattern as if they have landed there. At first glance, it is as if they are attracted to the nectar of the flowers and have settled to feed – but this is not the case, because Life’s a bit shit.