This series of images makes use of transfer printed plates decorated with landscapes. Transitioning from the Chinese willow pattern design, plates with European picturesque scenes became highly popular in the nineteenth century.
Today, for many, they are seen as quintessentially English, invoking both a sense of tradition in relation to home decoration, and alluding to a bygone era (and heyday) of English countryside. Although a great many designs exist, all, to some extent, follow a formula in terms of content and composition, and all seek to convey a similar warmth of emotion regarding the English heartland.
At times of cultural stress, when the fundamentals of our sense of identity and belonging might be felt to be irreversibly changing, the past can seem like an escape route, with the collective ‘memory’ of pastoral life seeming all the more inviting for its imagined anti-cultural ontology (as more natural than cultural). Seemingly, it is a place of down to earth, physical experience – distant from societal affectation and technological development and promising an authentic and tangible oneness with nature. In our English countryside experience, we often seek out relics of pastness, such as country house estates, museums of rural life and places of archaeological interest where standing stones or unearthed fragments of everyday life testify to an unshakeable continuity, overriding the skittish trends of modern living.
These constructions of broken, mismatched plates might suggest a ‘paradise’ lost, or alternatively, might be seen as representing an undaunted attempt to keep a certain picture of the world in place.