Esther Stewart: How to Decorate a Dump

Esther Stewart borrows the title for this site-specific installation from a 1983 book written by New York decorator Philip Almeida, continuing her enquiry into the aesthetics and ethos of DIY home improvements.

Art Exhibition previously on at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Victoria, Australia.
From Saturday 04 June 2016 to Sunday 11 September 2016

Esther Stewart: How to Decorate a Dump image

Published by anonymous on Wednesday 11 May 2016.
Contact the publisher.

In recent years, Stewart has made paintings and sculptures using geometric designs that while deriving from modernist abstraction increasingly reference the ornamental trappings of architecture and domestic interiors such as awnings, balustrades, lattices and tiles; marble veneers; patterns on carpets, rugs or wood panelling. Often blurring boundaries between art, architecture and design, such works also toy with being functional, like her recent sculptures that double as display screens for paintings, and her patterned floor rugs that can be also hung on the wall.

Home decorating has associations with the feminine and Stewart uses this domestic vernacular to personalise her abstract language. Her interest in 1970s and 1980s DIY home-renovation manuals stems from a fascination with what she calls ‘the utopian idea of domesticity’, the desire to create a personalised haven, even when resources are limited and reality falls short of our dreams. Such concerns are often present in the titles of paintings like the doleful I Was Hoping for More 2016 or the more upbeat Tacky Can Be Chic 2016, the latter a catch-phrase borrowed from Almeida’s manual.

Idealised models for living, as embodied in floor-plans, flat-pack kit or display homes, even dolls houses, pop-up books and theatre sets also provide source material for Stewart’s work. Drawing on these ideas and uniting her sculpture and painting practices, How to Decorate a Dump is a colourful, three-dimensional diorama through which she astutely explores decorative vocabularies and the nostalgic fetishising of olden-day styles.