David Wightman at the Hempel
“I grew up in a house where every wall was covered with blown vinyl wallpaper – a misguided attempt at home improvement.”
Think of Miss Havisham’s crumbling mansion, with its peeling wallpaper and tarnished silver. Think of the flocked velvet walls of a luxurious hotel suite, or even your grandmother’s living room from the Seventies. Wallpaper has found itself in a decorative limbo, skirted around by artists and remaining the plaything of the brave interior designer. Artist David Wightman has, however, seen an opportunity to reinvigorate the material with which we all have a relationship.
Wightman uses painted layers of precision-cut wallpaper shapes to build emotive abstractions. For him, wallpaper is synonymous with the home, his choice of the particular textures for each individual piece rich with wistful suggestion. Approaching his art with a lively palette and abstract geometric forms, the artist exploits the material’s kitsch connotations, resisting the theoretical loftiness of abstraction to instead progress in the direction of nostalgia and whimsy. Subtle nuances of raised patterns that “ultimately fail to represent what they imitate” allude to a sense of aspiration, of attempts through décor to imitate stately homes or modernist apartments. The intensity of glossy colour interrupts the nature of the wallpaper, complicating its reception and elevating it above its humble background to a valid artistic medium: a provocative case of role-reversal.
“The paper I use is chosen for its dated look – it can’t be too tasteful or ironic.”
Homage (2009) comprises four block-colour squares, whose independent patterns appear to intertwine such that the piece seems to resist its strict geometric boundaries. Calm in form but alive in texture, Homage tricks the eye into perceiving new shapes and new outlines; exciting dialogues between its components that exposes a certain intimacy within its bold appearance. An outline of shocking magenta closes the piece, almost ‘locking’ its forms into place, and in so doing simultaneously lifts and sinks the various internal shapes such that although fixed, they appear to stir, regardless.
“Not content with using impersonal titles normally associated with abstract works, my titles point towards places, people, situations, and feelings – at once sentimental and melancholy.”
Imbuing the work with a sense of history and intimacy through evocative titles such as Charlotte’s Room, Secret Name, and I Won’t Share You, the artist invites the viewer to share his most personal memories; his conception of home. Through this shift of the position of wallpaper from decorative platform to artistic statement, the relationship of Wightman’s work to the wall becomes more intriguing. With regard to domestic space, the artist sees his creations as being closer to a foreign object, than representing any sense of a return to their origins. In so doing, the work’s relationship with the home becomes restless and uneasy, mirrored in the pieces’ visually fluctuating levels of pattern and texture.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Young curating duo SUMARRIA LUNN are Vishal Sumarria and Will Lunn, both in their twenties. Will Lunn put together his first exhibition aged just seventeen. Still only twenty-one, he remains one of the country’s youngest professional curators. Despite having experience that surpasses their years, the youthful pair operate with a refreshing approach that is reflected in their adept combination of both grand exhibitions (a charity auction at the Royal Institution of Great Britian with works by Anish Kapoor among others), and more intimate private viewings (including their own flat).
David Wightman is a graduate of the prestigious Royal College of Art, and has since exhibited in a number of important public galleries including a solo show at Cornerhouse and a group exhibition at CUBE – Centre for the Urban Built Environment (Manchester). The artist has shown at the Venice Biennale (2009) and is a recipient of the Hunting Art Prize (2003).
19th November – 19th December 2010
Art Work Space at the Hempel