Wallpaper is no longer painting’s poor relative. But on walls, yesterday’s exotic or pastoral fantasies have been replaced by humor and diversion. Wallpapers display a more and more violent message, that can only be made bearable by an apparent monotony of the narrative. Here are three contemporary artists who have found ways to reinterpret this classic motif.
The panoramic views of the Zuber homes are today historical monuments…with the risk of becoming old and dusty. The bourgeois mansions used to display, at the time, exotic and romantic landscapes. With a taste for the pastiche and for surrealism, artist Philippe Morillon adds to these panoramas a March fitness model here, a helicopter or a yacht there.
BEFORE – Joseph Vernet
AFTER – Philippe Morillon
The toile de Jouy has its own museum, and remains a timeless visual pattern. Often insipid, this classic element of the French country house is a source of inspiration for artist Brigitte Zieger. A feminine wallpaper reinterpreted by a woman, who is rather a “Calamity Jane” as she likes to call herself. In her patterns, the naive peasants carry weapons and the bushes hide tanks. Violence and war make their way in the comfort of the boudoirs.
Wallpaper is inseparable from the industrial society – to which it owes its development -, and during the ‘60s Andy Warhol appropriated it too, as a symbol and as a support. The king of pop art defines his own vision of a bucolic pattern, displaying repetitive cow heads on his “Cows” wallpaper. Warhol installed his wallpaper in a gallery. Today, it is Damien Hirst who has taken over the art world, codifying and estheticizing his own motif. A regular visitor of morgues, he replaced the cows with pills and butterflies: the British artist magnifies sickness and death, man’s dark and immanent barriers.