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Intentions and aims for “Georgian Fusion”

 

I recently visited Osterley for research into the “Georgian Fusion” project. It was originally a Tudor manor house but was redesigned by Robert Adam in the mid-1700s. The records of this process that have survived mean it’s one of the most useful in terms of seeing how his designs were turned into reality. It’s also a good example for me, as the decor incorporates the Child family’s symbol of a marigold – the logo for the bank the family founded.

That particular aspect of the decor was of particular interest. I hope to include Irish symbolism chosen by Irish people in my re-imagined Georgian decor. Seeing how Adam included nods to the family history and business is a great starting point for me to see where I can include specifically Irish symbolism. I was not disappointed – the marigolds appear in everything, from carvings on doors to banisters, plaster mouldings to Etruscan-inspired wall paintings. Apparently, more is more – and Adam was only too happy to give these residents a constant reminder of what their wealth had brought them. Imagine the pride they must have felt in their “palace of palaces”. I find it hard to square with a socialist conscience, but they must have occupied an interesting position in the new “middle class” who had made fortunes rather than inheriting them. Social mobility in this era is a fascinating mix of privilege and extreme prejudice, open to a select few and still based mostly on lucky circumstances at birth. The class system isn’t any less messed up today, and I find it interesting to see the foundations on which our society has been built and see if we can learn any lessons.

Partially I want to bring this sense of pride to the Irish home owner whose property I’m inspired by / will be working with. I hope that I will bring my skills to benefit him. We are all worthy of celebrating our identity if it doesn’t come at the expense of others – which is why I feel that possible English-influenced trends appearing in a country that was occupied and treated terribly is something worth challenging.

 

There are several points in history I’m very interested to look at with regards to influences on visual arts in Ireland – for several hundred years, Insular art and the influence of Irish-founded monasteries across Europe meant that previous to the English-Norman invasions, Ireland had much more of an influence on the rest of the continent than vice versa. Christian Gregorian reforms would have influenced these C11 & C12 invaders who gradually intermarried and took on Irish language and customs. Later English occupation from the Tudor time brings with it a complicated relationship with religion. What are the implications of Henry VIII’s break from Rome? Would Classical design have been considered “too Catholic”? His daughter Mary then swung the other way before Elizabeth I took a more central position. I believe therefore that 1700s Neo-Classical architecture in these islands stems more from Britain’s interpretation of a Classical aesthetic than directly from source, Rome and Italy.

It’s this reinterpretation of Greek and Roman design and where it has been manipulated and how that interests me, and the possibility for making something that reclaims a style in the name of the local population.

I’ve been prioritising web results from Irish sites and running my historical research past Irish friends, two of whom have archaeology degrees! I really want to approach this with respect as it’s important to my practice and my morals. I know I will probably come under fire for appropriation, but it will be a learning experience for me to challenge the prejudices I have internalised from being born here and hopefully learn to reframe any unconscious bias I have. I see it as an exercise in learning to listen and am open to constructive criticism.

 

 

 

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