Friday, February 05, 2010

Catherine Bertola: "Walls are talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture" Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

Walls are talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture

Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester

6 February - 3 May 2010
Preview: Friday 5 February, 6-8pm

The first major UK exhibition of artists' wallpapers with work by over 30 artists including Andy Warhol, Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst. Kitsch ideas of home decoration are turned upside down as artists subvert the stereotypes of wallpaper to hit home messages about warfare, racism, cultural conflicts and gender.

The exhibition is grouped around themes: subversion, commodification, imprisonment and sexuality. In Sonia Boyce's work Clapping, a feeling of claustrophobia and menace is strengthened by the repeated design of the black and white hand print. Zineb Sedira uses wallpaper patterns to illustrate social inequalities and gender difference from her French-Algerian Islamic perspective.

Thomas Demand, one of the foremost conceptual artists working today, covers the entire South Gallery in his Ivy wallpaper - intricate pieces of paper cut out and photographed make up a lifelike work of imprisoning beauty. In stark contrast to this are popular commercial papers that reinforce cultural and gender stereotypes; from Barbie or the Spice Girls to the use of male symbols such as beer cans, football teams or idealised female bodies.

Whether amusing, like David Shrigley's Industrial Estate, or startling, like Bashir Makhoul's Points of View, 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.

Catherine Bertola
Beyond the looking glass (detail)
ash and paper
New Commissioned work for 'Walls are Talking'
Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery