‘The William Morris Family Album’ is the title of a new photography exhibition and costume display at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, east London, featuring a new installation of photographic tableaux created by British-Nigerian contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.
In preparation for the exhibition Shonibare undertook extensive research into the life and work of William Morris, as well as the local history of Waltham Forest, to help guide his archive-based searches and draw inspiration for creating a new series of group portraits to reflect the areas changed (and ever-changing) social and cultural composition and population demography since Morris’s era.
Local residents from Walthamstow’s diverse multi-ethnic and multicultural communities were invited to sit for Shonibare in a series of group portraits – each one staged to mirror and echo the composition of historical portraits from William Morris’ Victorian family album. The sitters were styled in late-19th century costumes to complement the range of attire featured in the archive images. The significant difference, however, was the replacement of plain fabrics with Shonibare’s signature ‘African-inspired’, wax-resist dyed patterned textiles and colourful batiks from Indonesia.
Following his completion of the project, Shonibare said:
“In the spirit of William Morris’ ideal of an egalitarian society, a diverse group of local people were invited to re-stage three photographs from the William Morris Family Album. The photographs are a celebration of costumes, textiles and diversity in the Morris world from a 21st century perspective.”
– Yinka Shonibare MBE, RA (2015)
The free exhibition is on display until 7th June 2015 at The William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP.
Website for further information: http://www.wmgallery.org.uk
Beyond the temporary exhibition space on the ground floor, Yinka Shonibare’s artwork has also been presented on publicity banners outside William Morris Gallery in the Walthamstow locality, and a small selection of textiles are also displayed on the central stairway and Level 1 entrance to rooms showing the main permanent collections.
1. The Walthamstow-born designer, writer and political activist William Morris (1834-1896) is most widely known for his innovative textile, wallpaper and furniture designs that became popular in the UK during the mid-to-late 19th century. As an artist and philanthropist, Morris was closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the influential English Arts and Crafts Movement. A full biography of his life and work, as well as a selection of images of his most celebrated designs, is available online via the V&A Museum website.
2. The William Morris Gallery is housed in a grade II* listed building located in the grounds of Lloyd Park. The dwelling was William Morris’s family home from 1848 to 1856.
3. Yinka Shonibare MBE, RA (b. 1962-) self-defines as a ‘British-Nigerian’ contemporary artist, whose early childhood and university education were spent in London, either side of his formative school years growing up in Lagos. He is one of the most celebrated conceptual artists in the world, who was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2004 (for his exhibition Double Dutch) and was elected as a Royal Academician in 2013. For a full biography, please see the artist’s website at http://www.yinkashonibarembe.com.