Thursday, 11 February 2010

Timerous Beasties

Timorous Beasties is a design studio set up in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, they are noted for their 'surreal and provocative' wallpaper and textile designs. There work has been described as "William Morris on acid" and mixes the traditional medium of wallpaper with very contemporary images. A good example of this would be their London Toile. Toile is a traditional wallpaper usually depicting a scene of rural idle, in their London Toile Timorous Beasties depict the modern London skyline in bright, vivid colours:

Timorous Beasties use both hand printing and machine techniques to experiment with their designs and much of their work is done in their Glasgow studio. They have also collaborated on a wide range of projects in different media. In 2007 they were invited by Maxalot of be part of an exhibition in the Hague. Maxalot showcases contemporary graphic design as an art-form and allows designers to work outside of the usual client boundaries. In the Hague Timorous Beasties projected traditional Toile images against a Damask backdrop on to the city hall. The projection was 30x30 metres.

In 2008 they were commissioned by a private donor to design new drapes for the stage in the main concert hall of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. The design is hand printed on to velvet and the drapes were 20 metres wide by 9 metres high.

In 2009 they were invited by Metropolitan Works to exhibit with 9 other artists, designers, jewelers and architects to showcase the technology available. Metropolitan Works provides technology, training and workspaces for the creative industries. The exhibition was the first time that Timorous Beasties had used laser cutting technology. They used the laser cutter to etch designs on to the surface of bricks. The 2 tessellating designs are both scenic, one showing a windfarm and the other urban wildlife in the city.

Peacocks Among the Ruins

I first came across the work of Timorous Beasties when I was researching the history of wallpaper in the library. I came across a catalogue for an exhibition that they co-curated at the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts). Peacocks Among the Ruins focused on the prevalence of plant and animal motifs in interior design dating back to the 18th century. It featured historical designs and the latest in contemporary wallpaper and fabric designs. Timorous Beasties created several new artworks for the show but also designed the installations and positioned the objects in the gallery. The exhibition was largely chronological, taking the viewer back in time from an opening contemporary scene to they delicate designs of the 18th century.

Flock of Flocks by Timorous Beasties - Flocked wallpaper decorated with 'Devil Damask Flock' produced in Gothic black-on-black. Birds are silhouetted at various stages of flight as if they have just been disturbed. The makeshift birdwatching hide constructed from wooden crates and raised off the ground like a tree house is by Dutch designer Jurgen Bey.

View of the first gallery. The boards propped up against the wall show a selection of classic designs by Timorous Beasties and re-issued historical designs from Cole & Son. The boards are decorated on both sides so they can be turned during the show.

Lampshades by Timorous Beasties. The 20 cylindrical lampshades are decorated with samples from a 1970s Sanderson wallpaper book. The prints are applied on the inside of the shades giving an almost ghostly appearance and reinforcing the fact that they are reproductions. Up close they have an almost cartoon like quality due to the garish patterns and vivid colours.

Eaglemountain by Universal Everything. Universal Everything are a British graphic design company, the work was initially envisaged as a single artwork but was produced as a digitally printed wallpaper to be fixed straight to the wall.

Horse Lamp by Front. Front is an all female Swedish design group, better suited to public spaces this work is controversial but also rooted in history and takes as precedence griffin table legs and lion newel posts.

With the advent of Modernism naturalism was outlawed, it was seen as too literal and unimaginative or dismissed as sentimental kitsch. In fact surface decoration of any kind has been looked down upon by architects since Modernism introduced the pure white forms we are so familiar with. However the tide seems to be turning and there are many designers now embracing decoration and bold natural motifs. I have already looked at the history of silk design and seen the importance that naturalism played in 18th century textile design and therefor also in wallpaper design. I think it is important to incorporate craft and decoration into architecture to avoid ending up with a sterile environment. Traditionally an architect would design the building and the interior designer would worry about the surface decoration. I would like pattern and surface to be key to the my design and integrated from an early stage rather than just applied as an after thought.

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