*Debutants & Scamps: Investigating the Prowess of Decorated Objects

My Life, Thoughts

It is the detection and projection of conceivably human traits onto the inanimate material world that relentlessly inspires my object-making and drawing practice. As the formation of my work is continually informed by the idiosyncrasies visible in everyday objects, I am a habitual observer of the narratives these things naturally invoke by virtue of being inadvertently personified. Over the past year, I have found myself infatuated by a specific breed of objects in light of their peculiarly heightened ability to appear as animated characters amidst a sea of otherwise idle paraphernalia. Here, I am referring specifically to those which possess highly embellished exteriors, verbosely constructed bodies, or a combination of the two. Essentially, those which are excessively decorated.

What draws me to these things is their capacity to be met with highly opposing sentiments. An ornate candelabra, for example, seems to possess equal chances of being perceived as sophisticated and beautiful as it does absurd or deplorably kitsch. This dual-propensity, I believe, is enabled most certainly by the distinctive presence of overtly superfluous design traits. (In this case, through an overabundance of auxiliary appendages).

That an item can be revered as formidably regal and playfully juvenile at the same time fascinates me greatly. It is the potential for an object’s identity to commingle between such divergent associations and the resulting contradictions that become tied up in it’s perceived role as utilitarian implement or play-thing, furniture object or veneration effigy, that motivates the creation of my own sculptures.

I want to create in-between objects that are capable of generating responses akin to those elicited by fondant encrusted multi-tiered wedding cakes and exotic dim sum buffets being as the presence of these things conjures reactions that could be described as delightful and repulsive with seemingly equal rigor. It is the humor implicit in this absurdist proposition which feeds my long-time preoccupation with characters of a beguiling unpredictable nature who frequently belie their presumed role. As such, my most recent work has aimed to indulge this fascination by examining the explicit role of decoration as it pertains to the activation of such a character trope.

Namely, I find myself persistently attracted to highly decorated objects because of their proneness to be imagined to possess innately controverting traits which result in contradictory classifications such as ‘noble and flamboyant’ — ‘trite and austere’ — or ‘demure yet outspoken’. Tassel-laden couch cushions and dressers obliterated with miniature drawers and floral patterns, vacant chandeliers spewing gilded limbs, and grandfather clocks standing atop multi-level pedestals all seem to invoke this sort of nonsensical persona. In light of my obsession with this quality, I tend to view any object imbued with a comparable aspect distinctly as an underdog; be it elephant or dancing puppet, debutant or scamp.

Whatever the case, excessively decorated things can scarcely be described without having human attributes projected onto them. Which provokes the question: Just what is it about being ‘decorated’ that so rigorously stimulates our inclination to perceive otherwise abstract forms as distinctly animated beings?

My conviction that decoration has as much to do with anthropomorphic narrative as it does the mere pleasure of experiencing something aesthetically compelling is largely rooted in my preoccupation with textiles and fashion. In the case of printed fabrics, it’s as though the role of pattern is to inoculate an object with some yet unspoken measure of vitality — energizing it with foreign moods and tendencies which at times undermine the very form of their garment. The kaleidoscopic prints depicted on the designs of Mary Kantranzou, Peter Pillotto, and Louis Vuitton, for example, frequently cause the clothing to appear strangely autonomous; suggesting the impression that the garments are wearing the model, and not the other way around. In such cases, the wearer becomes fleetingly understood as subservient to it’s donned garment. Yayoi Kusama, Valentino, and Moschino no doubt understand this phenomenon as they employ pattern and decadent textural surfaces to a similar end which often results in the printed frocks appearing to dominate the frames of the models on which they reside. In this way I am especially interested in densely complex, highly elaborate graphic surfaces as they become capable of denoting characters of a comparably manic nature.

When pondering this notion, one can imaginatively conceive of the would-be persona of an antique Victorian interior, or that of the a Vegas casino floor as the two are both virtually covered with decoration. The chintz on the wing-backed chairs mirroring the wallpaper as the crown moulding re-articulates the filigree relief carved on the legs of the dining table, the dizzying geometric configurations on the psychedelic casino rug — endlessly reflecting the oscillating shapes that flash about on each maniacal slot machine screen. In these scenarios, the forms become narcissistic and self obsessed, coming together to participate in the tireless collective effort that is self-veneration of form. An absurd narrative, in and of itself.

Nevertheless, here it becomes evident that obsessive layering and repetition in the form of meticulously duplicated pattern connotes both austere supremacy and playful mimicry, giving way to a host of possible dispositions who become united on account of their mutual voracity for embellishment. I’ve come to adopt the term ‘hyperbolic surface’ in reference to such explicitly ornamented items as I’ve been continually charmed by the audacious power of their designs to evoke characters who are at the same time ebullient and tyrannical all by virtue of their sheer excessiveness of form.

After all, a radiator is simply a radiator… Until it is engulfed from head to toe in embossed gold enamel floral motifs. Then what is it? This simple inquiry, strangely enough, perhaps best serves for the task of logically deconstructing the subconscious thesis question that has been pervading my explorations in the studio over the past year. And I even have an answer for it. But be warned, it’s inspired by my obsession with Dickensian and Tom Waitsian character descriptions whereby said authors make a frequent point of exploiting the traits of street urchins in so far as they contrast the refinery of bureaucrats and the extant to which peasant girls in turn assume the role of character foil to queens of state. So here you go: He is a geriatric radiator. Dressed up for a night of bingo which will invariably involve one or seven double-jamesons-and-gingerale followed by a pit stop at the seedy cabaret next door to take in the traveling burlesque show. Or, (in less poetic terms), what I’ve learned through my current studio research is that the adornment of our surroundings lends itself irrevocably to the fetishizing of objects, which in turn gives way to the habitual constructing of various theatrical roles. Roles for which imagined characters of all stripes are continually conscripted and devoured.

So enjoy these decorated objects, I hope they charm and enchant you as much as they do me!

I’m presently in the process of completing a body of work informed specifically by the above observations and ideas and I can not wait to share it ! The random image mash-ups below are just a few that I will be using in a small picture book which will be accompanying my upcoming exhibition.

xx

Meg

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