I have always been a collector: as a child it was the usual range of collectibles: badges, rubbers, ornaments. I do still have a large and detailed Victorian-style dolls house, filled with furniture and accessories down to the minutiae of how I imagined the lives of its inhabitants would be.
Eleven years ago I began to acquire a particular type of ephemera. I was very drawn to black and white prints: etchings and woodcuts. I developed a penchant for reading old newspapers and journals, savouring the advertisements they held for things long-since forgotten and made redundant. At the same time I began to try out printmaking myself, adapting the etching process that I had learned to make one-off drawings which carried a similar aesthetic to prints. The drawings evolved from the collection of prints in a way.
The first object I acquired was an Edwardian bureau – fairly plain but with a beautiful wood grain running through it that evoked the sensation of strata or of a landscape.
On a visit to Amsterdam I had been fascinated by the dolls houses in the Rijksmuseum. These houses had been built as exact replicas of their owners’ townhouses, containing objects made of authentic materials, carefully crafted in the correct proportions. These elaborate scale models were concealed in cabinets: ornately decorated but bearing no resemblance to the exteriors of houses. Rather than being toys, these houses were hobbies. Wunderkammern were cabinets that housed collections of 'wonders', designed to reflect the collector’s knowledge. Effectively they were museums in miniature, organised into compartments that reflected the various fields of collecting. In this sense, through their inclusion of the products of nature, human virtuosity and science they acted as microcosm of the world, a concept that took literal form in the creation of miniature houses with their remarkable contents.
This visit took place several years before the acquisition of the Edwardian cabinet, but the two events evolved into Wunderkammer (2009), a sepia drawing that emerged from a tiny painting inside the cabinet, which itself emerged from the wood grain.
I have chosen to respond to the brief by presenting my own curiosity cabinet, with examples of the ephemera and objects that have informed my work over the past ten years. Rococo forms, Penny Dreadfuls with scenes of calamity and vicious animal attacks, and etched landscapes that decorate Ladies’ journals are combined together with my own documentation of landscapes. From these sources I produce collages and maquettes which combine some or all of these elements, stylistically or sometimes via the inclusion of found images. These then inform the drawings and installations that I make.
From a personal point of view this show has been a useful exercise in sorting through my collection of journals, prints, books and scrapbooks, discovering and rediscovering images of interest.
Juliette Losq 2015