This confusingly titled show Your Garden is Looking a Mess Could You Please Tidy It Up has very little to do with scrappy shrubbery, but takes its inspiration as what the organisers view as the dying art of printed mass communications.
Artist Andrew Curtis, who is curating the show, explains to Design Week that the title is taken from an anonymous note posted through his letterbox – something he thinks is unlikely to happen now, where, he feels, anonymity has been compromised by our digital footprints.
The exhibition examines how the world has changed radically from an era where physical pieces of design work on packaging, book covers and record sleeves were the norm – aiming to explore ‘print’ in an era where digital is becoming the primary way in which we consume news and entertainment.
Curtis says, ‘We’re in a hybrid period in which digital is taking over, but in my opinion physical things will then be used to form something different. When painting was dying in the 1980s it got stronger again.’
The exhibition, which opens next week at London’s Payne Shurvell gallery, will feature artists and designers including Rupert Ackroyd, Peter Blake, Leon Chew, Niall Monroe , Dermot O’Brien, Sian Pile, Rudolf Reiber, and Richard Rhys, founder of The Pattern Foundry.
About half of the works on show have been created specially for the exhibition, in media including design objects, print, video and sculpture.
The show takes Philip Morris’ iconic 1955 flip-top Marlborough cigarette case as a starting point, fetishizing it as an emblem of 20th-century design. It’s hard to imagine now how much care once went into cigarette packets, with their current incarnations (for better or for worse) adorned with nothing but stark warnings and gruesome images.
Exhibition organizers ponder the question, ‘The Marlboro pack has a long history of visual appropriation, but as logos and advertising are increasingly removed, will an activity fuelled by visual desire survive without the image?’ How indeed.
Curtis says, ‘People’s identities are generated by adverts and brands – they used to carry a particular brand of cigarettes, or a teenager would carry a punk or disco record.
‘It’s like celebrities that were photographed reading a certain book – now that it’s all on Kindles and things, it’s all become internal. The external isn’t always how you express yourself any more.’
Your Garden is Looking a Mess Could You Please Tidy it up runs from 4 November – 17 December at Payne Shurvell Gallery, 16 Hewett Street, London EC2A