The Modern Interior
Elizabeth Corkery
Graham McDougal

The Modern Interio
r is a space that is both exhibition and in appearance, a domestic setting. Corkery’s wall-mounted paper room covering, Victorian Parlour, transforms public space of the gallery into an intimate private scene. The design of the covering assembles decorative Victorian parlour imagery and acts as visual and physical support for McDougal’s six colorful silkscreen pieces that are similarly inspired by architecture and its reproduction.

In their independent practices, Corkery and McDougal use printed matter and photography as a source, subject and site. In this, their first collaborative project, they both look to seminal eras in British architecture while also examining the role of print and the fraught task of depicting space in two dimensions.

Visible held up by tacks and hung loosely to avoid a connection to pasted wallpaper, the interior reproductions covering the walls of the space generate a firm distinction between the display of pictures and the structure of pictorial illusion. Each of the four different wall illustrations are sourced from Victorian era architecture and historic interior design catalogs. Their history as a printed reproduction is evident in the large circular bitmap pattern that generates each panel’s design. As one moves closer to view the smaller silkscreen works, the design of the wall covering begins to break down much like the experience to walking towards a billboard at street level. With the mechanics of the work’s reproduction and display laid bare, the wall covering becomes a self-aware, self-reflective whole image that acknowledges its own reality as picture, a facsimile of a space.

The Victorian era saw industrial development move labor out of the home and into the public sphere of factories and warehouses, leaving the home as a realm of the purely domestic. Interior design as a concept was born of this time, as was the term “modern”, existing initially as the exact binary to all that was Victorian. This was an era of standardization and pre-fabrication which concurrently gave rise to displays of individuality in terms of how one furnished themselves and their homes. When viewing the catalogs and journals devoted interior decoration from this era, the imagery is imbued with a sense of potential. From the literal paper-thin representations provided by their illustrations one was to mentally transpose the imagery onto the contours of their own home, a mental feat that is made physical by Corkery’s actual paneling of the gallery space in these reproductions.


In 1948 The Aluminium Development Association published The First Aluminium Bungalow. This report details the research and construction of aluminum houses developed in post-war Britain. The influence of this report is understood as a model for future production. The report illustrates a contextual shift through the development of new alloys for military aircraft during wartime; to the peacetime mobilization of this technology for urban regeneration and housing provision.

The artworks displayed within The Modern Interior are intended to reflect this shift in the contextual use of material and production. Two works titled Aluminium Sections and Interior are derived specifically from drawings in The Aluminium Development Association report. Aluminum Sections function as an index to inform the speculative fabrication of the sculptures depicted in the work titled Interior. Within Interior, it is possible to read this material transformation as extrusions, which are formally derived from the drawings detailed in Aluminum Sections.

The relationship between Aluminum Sections and Interior imagines the possibility of three-dimensional fabrication as sculpture, benches or modular shelving. Interior is in fact an absolute fabrication, a montage of image construction, which employs three-dimensional rendering tools in Photoshop. This achieves the illusion of document through photographic conventions of the installation view. The work is produced as a monochrome silkscreen to complicate the illusionistic reading of a digital-photo output.

The printing of this montage as halftone-silkscreen is intended to explore art historical readings of the image / object relationship. This is influenced by experiences of understanding art (specifically, modernist sculpture), by reading through photography and reinterpreting the object and environment as an image: A fabricated sculpture situated in the plaza; a patina of monochrome auto-body paint has been applied to a structure of welded I-beams. This object is framed through the viewfinder and set within a backdrop of concrete, steel and a facade of glass.

Within The Modern Interior, facades or more specifically, coverings are explored in three panels, set within the illustrated coffers of the paper wall covering. The Coverings are variants of the compositions used to virtually cover the fictitious sculptures depicted within the montage Interior. Coverings reiterate the production techniques of the modular / sectional in their image construction. Multiple silkscreen layers are woven within each panel. The seams of which are emphasized by the variation of halftone angle, frequency and colour. Their difference is achieved during the printing process by adapting layer orders and color combinations.

The shift from interior covering to exterior canopy is explored in the final panel, which is installed in the gallery, opposite Aluminium Sections. Canopy, which hangs above the illustrated fireplace of the backdrop shares the influence of sectional / modular, architectural construction. Here, the sub-text changes from post-war prefab homes to hi-tech industrial architecture. Specifically, the roof of the Renault Distribution Center, Swindon UK, designed by Foster and Partners, 1982-83.

Canopy is based on a feature published in Architectural Design, 1983. The article includes a pull-out poster, a photographic layout, which revels in the graphic potential of the striped membrane roof. The Renault Distribution Center is not the first or last architectural structure to serve as graphic design or photo backdrop. It expands on a process, which reads sculpture and installation views as images. In Canopy the magazine page itself becomes the subject of reproduction, which is a further mediation of the architectural image. The flat magazine pull-out, depicting a tense membrane roof, is manipulated during scanning to produce a three dimensional, corrugated image.