THE GRAPHIC RISE OF BRITISH MODERNISM
All life in England now is here. Wrapped in boxes. Ticked after being negotiated around a table. Subtle, crisp, empty and locked in limbo.
We are witness to a sharp break from the past with a thematic, formal and stylistic tone, here being set by Ellery, to reveal the fetishistic nature of English everyday life. Britain’s civilised war is afoot here, wrapped in boxes and ready to go. Are we contained within defined borders? In many ways, we always have been.
There is more than a slightly menacing air to these photographs of England, for they scream, to me, of the state we’re in. I say England rather than the UK because these houses, garden sheds, kitchen tables and politicians are all subtle pointers to a singular country rather than a united pact of nations. It takes a keen eye to spot, but you need not be a sociologist to enjoy, for this book is a simple, brilliantly executed, thoughtful conversation starter.
There are four undefined, but clear, chapters: houses, garden sheds, kitchen tables and politicians. To unpack the relevance of these let’s look at each from a micro and macro perspective, reminiscent of the 1977 Eames film, Powers of Ten, that zooms from finite to infinite.
It has long been said that an Englishman’s home is his castle. This is often to denote the importance of independent power and autonomy. However, if we look at it within the current political climate, we see another angle, that of isolation, attack and defence.
The garden shed has long been popular in English culture as a place where amateur innovation happens. A place for ‘tinkering’ with technology, a refuge for the male of the house from his wife and children, or a den for drinking illicit supplies of homemade wine and beer and looking at pornography.
The kitchen table may have taken over from the shed when it comes to tinkering with innovation; small business empires are set up and run from around its cheap wooden frame. But here, the tables are empty. No one sits here. No one is working. There is no meal on the table. These are blank canvases.
And then we come to the politicians. We see life, or do we? Perhaps, these are all crime scenes? I read a book with no words and yet conjured this narrative.
By Robert Urquhart
Edition of 350
300 x Standard edition
50 x Hors commerce
Published in 2019
Published by Browns Editions
Softback gate fold cover with gloss black foil
220 × 290 mm