Ampersandesign is an Oxford based agency offering print and web orientated brand communication and graphic design. Ampersand Design has over 40 years combined experience.
Good design is good business. Lester Beall

Green and pleasant land

Take a look at this. It’s a fabric design by Timorous Beasties: a Toile de Jouy, in the tradition of 18th century pastoral themes. It’s fair to say, the stylistic treatment tells you pretty much what to expect.

Toile de Jouy, Timorous Beasties
Toile de Jouy, Timorous Beasties

If, however, a dreamy landscape is all you see, you’ve overlooked something that makes it particularly distinctive.

Look more closely and you may spot something that gives you the feeling you’ve just grasped a clever punch line. The classic format has an edgier, urban twist: street lights and a urinating tramp, against a backdrop of tower blocks in Glasgow. It’s this uncomfortable relationship between rural and urban landscape that makes the piece more interesting.

Toile de Jouy, (detail and lampshade), Timorous Beasties
Toile de Jouy, (detail and lampshade), Timorous Beasties

As long as the references are agricultural, any signs of human intervention in rural scenes evoke a kind of nostalgia: think of paintings with furrowed fields, hedges and redundant windmills. The mills of the industrial revolution, on the other hand, are felt to taint ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ with their ‘dark satanic’ connotations – a clash that continues to be visually exploited by artists in a variety of media.

Black Country Skyline, oils, Edwin Butler Bayliss
Black Country Skyline, oils, Edwin Butler Bayliss
Credit: Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Civil War Campground, watercolour
Civil War Campground, watercolour, Edward Hopper
Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Whether jarring, or harmonious, the juxtaposition of man-made structures against Nature can be dynamic.

Tinsley Towers, Rotheram
Tinsley Towers, Rotheram

Our eyes adjust to industrial features, as we become accustomed to their presence. How often do you really notice the pylons and telegraph poles that connect residential areas like some kind of electrical dot-to-dot?

Recently, in a nearby village, the application for a wind turbine generated more negative energy in a neighbourhood planning meeting than any amount of electricity it promised to produce. (The applicant was consequently banished from the village pub and struck off social events for some time afterwards). Perhaps there would be less resistance, as time causes these structures to naturally dissolve into the wash of landscape scenery. A few more years and they may even become part of the location’s identity.

Pylons and sunset, near Shipston-on-Stour
Pylons and sunset, near Shipston-on-Stour

Back in 2008, the demolition of the Tinsley water cooling towers in Sheffield was met with great sadness: many felt they had lost a treasured landmark.

 

Power lines II, screenprint,
Dan Clarke
Hopewell VA II, monotype,
Frank Hobbs

Throughout the history of architecture, buildings from certain eras have been dismissed – sometimes demolished – only to be appreciated years later and protected by some preservation order.

A search online for industrial landscape scenes came up with hundreds of examples: many artists draw inspiration from these monuments to modern living that nestle in our countryside. We decided to try something similar ourselves, and taking a leaf out of Timorous Beasties’ book, we introduced our graphics to the world of soft furnishings.



Battersea Power Station
      Battersea Power Station,
      screenprint on cotton.

Water cooling towers & pylons
     Water cooling towers & pylons,
      screenprint on cotton.

Wind turbines
      Wind turbines,
      screenprint on cotton.

We love the solid simplicity of water cooling towers; the colossal stature of power stations, majestic turbines and the intricate geometry of pylons and electrical networks. Injecting a vibrant edge to a traditionally soft medium, we explored some of these themes with our textile designs.

We experimented with layering photographic imagery with paper cut-outs and half-tone effects and screen printed our designs on to cotton drill. England’s green and pleasant land also comes in orange and pink, beautifully contrasted with industrial grey.

You can buy these cushions from our store.

Shireen Dew
19th December 2016