Victoriana: The Art of Revival

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'I Remember, Nobody Remembers', 2010

© the artist

‘Ryan is having fun with traditional Staffordshire ceramics,’ explains Sonia Solicari, curator of the show. ‘He’s taken original moulds and created new figures, decorating them with texts and slogans. He’s interested in mass production – which started in the nineteenth century – and what that does to an object. The Staffordshire figure becomes kind of a blank canvas, ripe for reclamation.’

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'Shorn Out of Wedlock', 2012

© the artist

According to Solicari, Hoodless’s cake ‘probes the Victorian fascination with the symbolism and cultural meaning of hair – in particular the social codes governing freely flowing hair for married women. The intricate hair-work that makes up this “wedding” cake speaks of the changing role of women in Victorian society.’

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From 'Dorian'

© the artist

‘Shonibare’s series of 12 photographs is one of the key works in the show,’ says Solicari. ‘ It’s interesting because, positioning himself as Dorian, Shonibare plays with his identity as a black British man and also the shifting identity of Dorian Gray over the decades. In fact, the artist came to Dorian via Albert Lewin’s 1945 film version of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 story, so there’s this extra historical layering to it.’

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'Trophy Chair', 2009

© the artist, photo: © Tim Walker

‘There’s a tension between the terms “art” and “craft” in the show,’ says Solicari. ‘Miss Pokeno sidesteps the issue by describing herself as an armchair destructivist.’ Pokeno (better known as Alannah Currie, from 1980s synth-pop trio Thompson Twins) has snuggled taxidermy foxes in the back of a red plush wingback that will take pride of place in the show’s ‘Reimagined Parlour’ of  Victorian-inspired furniture and homewares. ‘It will explore what we mean by hearth and home today.’

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'I Want a Better World, I Want a Better Me'

© the artist

To create this digital print, Titchner has layered William Morris-influenced patterns mass produced by multinational companies criticised for poor labour conditions in developing countries. ‘It’s in the style of a nineteenth-century trade union banner,’ explains Solicari. ‘As well as being about Morris’s decorative lineage it’s about his avant-garde politics.’

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'Hangman', 2010

© the artist, image courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery

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'Dearly Beloved'

© Carole Windham

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'Devil Damask Flock Wallpaper', launched 2007

© Timorous Beasties

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'Octopus Portrait', 2009

© the artist, image courtesy Michael Hoppen Contemporary and GP Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery , Mansion House Sunday September 22 2013 12:00 - 16:00

Victoriana: The Art of Revival, the Guildhall Art Gallery’s first exhibition of contemporary art, isn’t the nostalgia fest the title suggests. Sure, there are Staffordshire dogs (not to be confused with Staffies) arranged on a mantlepiece. But you should check out the lamp, a moth-speckled hallucination by YBA provocateur Mat Collishaw. And the wallpaper – ‘Devil Damask Flock’ by Timorous Beasties, which was last seen adorning Irene Adler’s bedroom walls in ‘Sherlock’. Clearly there’s a fevered narrative beyond the frills and chintz. While these neo-Victorians aren't a unified group, the show is full of artists who look back to the nineteenth century with wary eyes.

Find out all about the show: read our interview with curator Sonia Solicari here.

Venue name: Guildhall Art Gallery
Contact:
Address: Guildhall Yard
off Gresham St
London
EC2V 5AE
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; Sun noon-4pm
Transport: Tube: Bank
Price: £7; £5 concs; under-16s & City of London residents free