This exhibition brings together work by artist Diana Taylor (b.1977) created as the result of her practice-based PhD at Sheffield Hallam University (2017-22). Undertaken in collaboration with the William Morris Gallery, Taylor’s research is focussed on deconstructing and reassembling aspects of Morris’s work and involves methods of making and un-making. The work on display uses various techniques of appropriation, such as assemblage, bricolage and collage, to explore the continuing impact that fragments of the past have upon the present.
Comprising paintings, textile assemblages, woven fabric, embroideries and wallpaper prints alongside original work by William Morris, the exhibition showcases Taylor’s interest in the loss and ruins of history and how they influence the physical world around us. Focussing on the concept of ‘hauntology’— the idea that elements of the cultural and social past persist in the present—Taylor’s work reinterprets Morris’s designs, themselves heavily influenced by the past, to create new work that translates some of his most recognisable patterns for the twenty-first century.
Challenging the idea of the authentic or original image, Taylor explores the theme of reproduction and the relationship between handwork and print, questioning the respective roles of artist and machine in the creation of a work of art. In ages of technological acceleration, the resurgence of traditional techniques can be especially powerful. As Morris reacted to the Industrial Revolution with a return to handcraft, Taylor’s work explores the relevance of the analogue in our digital age, reassembling digital processes in physical artifacts. In this way her work plays on the idea of circular or repetitive time, in which objects continue through new and repeated life cycles and converge on Taylor’s argument that Morris is ‘a ghost for today’.
Image: Swept Under the Carpet (Acanthus) detail, Diana Taylor.