NEW YORK — Porcelain figurines give artists like Barnaby Barford and Jessica Harrison a jumping-off point for their works of contemporary ceramic art. It’s as though they’re having a dialogue with our preconceptions about decorative, kitschy objects. For Harrison her prim and proper women are pictured tearing themselves apart. For Barford, our preconceptions play the straight man in a comedy bit that is like a MAD Magazine parody. They’re joined by Brighton artist Amy Douglas, a porcelain restorer who takes 19th century tchotchkes intended for the masses and grafts surreal, modern sensibilities to them. Her recent show The Art of Salmagundi was held at the Jack Hanley Gallery (New York, January 8 – February 7). The following is a description of her work.
The Art of Salmagundi is the work of artist, Amy Douglas. For her first exhibition at the gallery, the artist presents a series of Staffordshire figures that have been re-imagined through skilled restoration and hand-painting. Douglas works only with figures that have been previously damaged and her interventions stem from the existing breaks, embracing an element of serendipity. Trained and employed as a porcelain restorer, Douglas’s craftsmanship is so meticulous that her alterations are not always immediately obvious which heightens the humorous impact of the figurines, deliberately causing the viewer to look twice. Titles for these sculptures have a tongue-in-cheek tone and are taken from literary and poetic sources such as, which further transform the figurines from their original material.
“Salmagundi” is an old French and Middle English word referring to a miscellany or mixture of things. The artist works as a restorer of ceramics and decorative arts and she implements both modern and traditional techniques to seamlessly mend and playfully alter broken Staffordshire figures she finds. Staffordshire figures were prevalent features of 19th century British homes, bought at fairgrounds as “toys” and perched on the mantelpiece of the common man. Usually based on prints and pamphlets that advertised attractions at local country fair, these figures depicted curiosities, celebrities and heroes of the day. The artist retains the essence of their original appearance but intervenes and augments the figures to create new, subtly irreverent sculptures that are equal parts witty and absurd.
Douglas describes her work as a restorer as bringing, “the pieces into our modern times, linking the past to the present. The titles give indications to present day scenarios or are just quotes and quips that I have heard. I am nosey and listen to what people say on the bus.”
Guided by this principle, she uses these same techniques to infuse antiquarian, domestic objects with a mildly eccentric sensibility that affords them their own contemporary relevance.
Amy Douglas (b. 1971, United Kingdom) lives and works in Brighton, East Sussex. Her recent exhibitions include Re-reanimate, repair, meld, mend at the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool and Out of the Box at Into you in London. The artist has also participated in The Secret Garden Party at the Shuffle in Brighton, Maggs Beneath the Covers at Maggs Bros. in London, Out of the Box at the No Format Gallery in London and Ink Spot Press in Brighton. Douglas has participated in The Tinker Box for the past three years, converting horse-boxes into a traveling gallery/stage and she has worked as a restorer for over a decade. The artist attended City and Guilds of London Art School in 1998 and received her MA from Camberwell College of Art in 2011.
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Text (edited) and images courtesy of the gallery.