Contemporary society produces vast quantities of visual material, which develop histories of their own and become part of our collective understanding of the present and past. My work draws these visual artefacts together into reflections upon the mythologies of the contemporary world. Inspired by traditional forms such as Wedgwood plates and Classical Greek vases, I often use modern-day ‘ceramics’ – paper plates and cardboard boxes – as canvases upon which to examine Western society’s master narratives.
Transfer continues my research-based process by examining the genealogy of motifs and fantasies incorporated into the history of blue-and-white ceramics. Although this type of decorative pottery is of ancient Islamic origin, it tends to be represented as an exclusively Chinese development, which later gained European popularity and was appropriated by Dutch potters (in the form of Delftware) and by British companies such as Wedgwood, among many others. Descendants of these initial Euro-Asian hybrids ultimately migrated to America in the form of American stoneware and through American-themed imports such as Staffordshire Transferware (whereupon images were printed rather than hand-painted onto the clay). Along with the distinctive appearance created by the use of the blue color, a long legacy of Arcadian imagery suffuses the production of these domestic products, as well as evident orientalist fantasies and (especially in the case of the American ceramics) nationalistic/patriotic overtones.
This project comprises a ‘set’ of three plates decorated with visuals derived from traditional blue and white ceramics—as well as imagery of Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, French, British, and American origin. Together this fusion of imagery explores the intertwined and complex relationship underlying the past—and present—traffic of ideas between East and West.
Ian Kirkpatrick is a Canadian contemporary artist and graphic designer currently living in Southampton, UK. His work has been exhibited at several UK galleries since 2008, and is in the permanent collections of Solent University and the University of Southampton. His work was recently featured in Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, a solo exhibition funded by the Creative Campus Initiative, part of the London 2012 Inspire program.