Natural style

The textile and wallpaper designs of C.F.A. Voysey were once as well known as those of Morris or , Liberty. Caroline Ednie examines the evidence in an exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery and looks at the influence of this celebrated


Voysey, the architect and designer, maintained thoughout his long and prolific career that if a room was well designed and proportioned, and the furniture good in form and colour, a very simple or quite undecorated treatment of the walls would be preferable. it seems strangely paradoxical, therefore, that he spent a great deal of his time designing

wallpaper and textiles.

Voysey was a disciple of master arts and craftsman William Morris. Like Mom‘s he realised the importance of applied art and its decorative functional basis. Unlike Morris, however, he decisively moved away from heavy, self-conscious historicism and developed a light and original vocabulary of design based on nature. ‘We should go to nature direct for inspiration and guidance,’ he stated. ‘Then we are at once relieved from restrictions of style and period, and can live and work in the present.‘ Voysey thus paved the way for Art Nouveau and Charles Rennie Mackintosh acknowledged his considerable influence.

This exhibition of Voysey‘s decorative designs has been selected from the collection of the Royal


institute of British Architects and is at times revelationary. The Demons and Dragons section of the exhibition is particularly rich and telling. An atheist by creed, in The Demon (l889), Voysey appears to be charting real hell-fire and brimstone territory. He could also be accused of succumbing to the kind of infernal indulgences so beloved of the European Symbolists. For an architect who has become synonomous with ‘pun’tan honesty'. these designs display an altogether more brazen and bolder

Elsewhere, and on a calmer note. flora and fauna combine to form graceful patterns, their beauty inherent in their simplicity. The venerable Van de Velde even came down off his pedestal long enough to admit that one of Voysey’s wallpaper designs appeared, ‘as if Spn'ng had come all of a sudden‘.

Voysey declared realism to be unsuitable for decoration yet continued to oscillate between stylistic


; Nouveau.

and naturalistic ornament. The more stylised, flattened, almost abstract forms, however, feel most comfortable. The later designs are more controlled and conservative, lacking some of the audacious chamt of his earlier work; one such example is the textile design of/llice in Wonderland (1930), which forms a disappointing pastiche of Tenniel‘s well known illustrations.

Voysey's designs however are never less than vigorous and well balanced. He developed a fresh and recognisable decorative charm which has proved hugely influential with subsequent generations of . designers. Overall, it is probably fair to say that he is probably one of the most important representatives of the evolution of ornament between Moms and Art

C.F.A Voysey; Decorative Design is at the Hunterian Art Gallery until 22 Jan.

_ In the shade

When Fred Pollock’s paintings are encountered tor the iirst time, they make a vivid visual impression. They are mostly large, rectilinear paintings executed in bright colours using acrylic paint which are obviously linked closely In terms oi style and use oi colour.

Born In Glasgow In 1931 and trained at the city‘s art school, Pollock has inherited the Scottish Colourist tradition though this has been suiiused with the lniluence oi American abstract painters, not least by his nmnesdte Jackson Pollock. The resultant works thereiore run somewhat against the grain oi current

artistic iashion which tends to iavour ilgurative work, or that derived irom the physical environment.

Pollock’s painting has been described as ‘pure abstraction’ which presumably means that there is no discemlble relationship between the paintings and the physical world. However, the titles oi the paintings, taken in combination with the very obvious diiierences between each individual work, would seem to belle this claim. The series entitled Greens oi Erin, tor example, illustrates the saying that in lreland there are 41 shades oi green. Similarly, llarlequln Move contains the colours traditionally associated with the character's costume coupled with explosive movement oi paint and brushstroke.

There is bnour in the work too.

ep Purple, a play on the name oi the rock band, suggests a comparison between the iorce oi the painting and the sound oi heavy metal. Pollock’s


work is vigorous, not only in its colour and composition, but also in its gutsy use oi thick slabs oi paint, oiten applied with a palette knlie; this brings a physicallty to the work usually absent irorn two-dimensions oi painting.

As an expatriate Scot working in london, Pollock clearly carries Images oi his native land with iondness and clarity, as the titles oi many oi the works testiiy. Northern Call is one oi his most interesting and moving works, not least because oi its smaller scale and more muted, darker coioms. This work could be taken symbolically to mean the return, at least in artistic terms, oi one who has come home. (Giles Sutherland)

The Fred Pollock exhibition is at the Talbot lllce, Edinburgh until 4 December.

The List 19 November—2 December 1993 57