May 11, 2010

Walls Are Talking

If it hadn't been for showing our visiting Finnish curators around I probably wouldn't have seen the Whitworth Art Gallery wallpaper exhibition "Walls Are Talking"; when I walked in, I realised that I have been waiting for more than 40 years for this show. I imagine that kids still have wallpaper collaging images from cartoons or movies (I don't know any to verify that), but I remember the endless childhood fascination of laying in my bedroom surrounded by repeating images of the 60's colourful Adam West Batman. Before modern domestic interior design, UK houses of the 60's and 70's were pretty much fields of patterned wallpaper - my mother had (and still has) an obsession with wallpaper with huge expressionistically painted roses. Both the Batman paper and the roses are here: Walls Are Talking is dramatically more interesting than either of these but manages to make them (and other, what should be banalities) fascinating and in so being locates those historical domestic manifestations anew.
It is very interesting how the artists work with the form of wallpaper focuses nostalgia and animates memories of domestic life, fondly and humorously. There is great wit in many of the works - and this is the lasting impression from the show, its great fun. There are many things to enjoy; I particularly liked Virgil Marti's brilliantly bold repeat pattern of oversized sleeping pills in florescent ink and rayon on flock paper.

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