Friday, October 07, 2011

London Toile

I'd been after the Iain Sinclair-edited anthology London: City of Disappearances for some time. I finally got it the other day, secondhand but in good condition and hardback, for £5. I suspect I mainly wanted it for its cover (the book itself has had quite bad reviews), which at £5 is definitely the cheapest way of acquiring a Timorous Beasties artifact.

Timorous Beasties produce 'surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers', cleverly subverting traditional forms with contemporary imagery. Once described as 'William Morris on acid', they've been a big influence in making fabrics and wallpaper hip and relevant once more.

Their London toile (above) wallpaper and fabric (as well as, inevitably, cushions, plates, and said book cover) is their most famous product. At first glance the imagery looks like the old-fashioned toiles produced in France in the 1700s, usually of pastoral scenes. Closer inspection reveals scenes from contemporary London, including a boy being mugged at gunpoint, teenagers drinking and smoking, dustmen and the homeless against backdrops of famous London landmarks including Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Trellick Tower and the Gherkin.

Their London toile actually looks quite cheery compared to their previous one, Glasgow toile, which features crack addicts, prostitutes and the homeless against dark backgrounds of graveyards and tower blocks.

In a similar vein, artist Rufus Willis gives a contemporary twist with his set of Illy coffee cups, produced in 2005. Instead of the Chinese gardens and landscapes typically found on Blue Willow ceramic ware, Rufus portrays modern life with factory chimneys billowing smoke, crumbling, war-torn buildings and shanty towns.

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