Monti8 Gallery 2021
1. A quantity of precious metals, gems, or other valuable objects.
‘the ransom was to be paid in diamonds and treasure’
1.1.A very valuable object.
‘she set out to look at the art treasures’
1.2. informal count noun A much loved or highly valued person.
1. Keep carefully (a valuable or valued item)
‘my mother gave me the ring and I'll treasure it always’
1.1. Value highly.
‘the island is treasured by walkers and conservationists’
Middle English from Old French tresor, based on Greek thēsauros
Sometimes I feel like a Magpie. I go around London looking through shop windows, browsing museum collections and antiques markets, and I take whatever I like, whatever I deem interesting. Then I put them into my paintings where I can keep them forever.
In different times, I’ve been much less fussy when it comes to choosing my objects… I’d be quite content to paint cleaning products in a pound store, or crisp packets in a corner shop. Lately though, I’ve been more greedy. I want the most beautiful objects. I don't really know if that's out of greed, or just of a need to be reassured of beauty in a difficult time.
This body of work evolved from my fascination with “stuff”. I think a lot about our relationships with stuff, what we value, and why we value it. Everything has multiple values - financial, personal, cultural, historical. Since I moved to London in 2014, the city has dominated my work. It’s a place filled with objects of the most incredible variety. If you look, every street, every shop, every living room and market stall is a collection, a museum of its own. There are over 83000 shops in London, and more than 170 museums. The objects represent us, both in the real world and in my paintings. They fascinate me for their ability to silently commentate on what’s going on around them.
One of my favourite places to be a Magpie is the British Museum. It’s so complicated. It’s so beautiful, yet so ugly. It’s proud and ashamed, simultaneously a cathedral of craftsmanship and a cave of stolen treasure. While the objects in the museum manifest the beauty of humankind, at the same time they speak of colonisation and pillaging, and the racial injustices that finally started getting properly addressed last year. And who do the objects belong to? And why are they still here? And why is the museum still so enchanting? It’s so strange that we can “treasure” that which doesn’t belong to us.
And what does it mean that so many of the objects for sale on the shop shelves around the city imitate those we see on the shelves of the museums? And how do their functions change when we place them in different contexts? In our homes? When they are bought, these objects become part of the furniture.
Within a domestic context, decorative objects seem to replace that which we lack. Do we use houseplants and flowers to make up for a lack of nature? And why do we put pictures of landscapes on the wall? Do pictures and portraits of people stand in for those who can’t be with us in person? Objects provide comfort. I talk to my flowers. So do you I imagine. Since the pandemic and the subsequent lack of human company, I find myself treasuring and personifying possessions more than ever. They are my friends. I put my best objects on my windowsill. That is my museum. Our possessions are like our own personal museum collections. They silently commentate on our own histories.