I am interested in William Morris and his influence on Modernist art and architecture. He advocated a return to well-made handcrafted products, and lamented the loss of craftsman skills which followed the Industrial Revolution. With Morris, art, architecture and design all came together in a new ideal of the built environment. He believed that everyone should have access to good design and adorned many buildings both inside and out with his craftsmanship (including the V&A café where my visits usually end).
My local Town Hall, a Modernist grade II* listed building, incorporates many of Morris’s ideas of craftsmanship – purpose designed lights, door handles and furniture; fine woods; inlaid panels; marble stairs; bronze balustrades - all designed for the enjoyment of the local community in Hornsey, which is what Morris had strived for. I wanted to find a way of making prints of Hornsey Town Hall, which could emphasis and draw attention to its beautiful details, and refer back to William Morris and his involvement with architecture and craft.
I’ve been looking at Morris’s wall papers and fabrics, his use of printing multiples, repetition and mirroring of images, often incorporating friezes to make his compositions and patterns. I have taken photographs of different aspects of the Town Hall, and used Morris’s composition methods to make a series of photolithographic prints which echo his designs. With the addition of gold chine colle to reference back to the bronze details found in the building, my images become something else, no longer straight representations of the building, but new compositions, with other motifs emerging.
These works are based on an historic “at risk” building, in need of protection – something William Morris championed in his SPAB – and incorporate traditional printing and modern technology, further linking to Morris and his printmaking business.
John Henry Dearle
Hand-knotted with woollen pile on a cotton warp
V&A collection reference number(s):
T.31-1923, T.586-1919, CIRC.45-1956, E.501-1919, E.800-1915