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Grandma’s wallpapers

http://youtu.be/tPP6CIpjDTM I am designing a collection of wallpapers. A the moment all of my wallpapers are hand-printed. The first step is to create a base pattern. Then the silkscreen print is created for the first colour. I do this myself by creating the screen and then exposing the light-sensitive screen to UV-light with the design underneath. The light and table construction for exposing the screend was designed by me. The printing process is slow. The 10m roll takes about 2 weeks to print for the first colour. In this case after the printing of the first colour was half-finished I wanted a more personal colour style and so I decided to add more colours, so I currently work on the second colour for this design. I don’t know how many of these colour layers I will be adding to the final design. My daughter created this wonderful video for me (she is cracking up beside me while I’m writing this). The size of the basic pattern is about 53x40cm and several layers have to be drawn. Therefore the making of the silkscreens is the most difficult part of the process. The printing process is more fun

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but slow because I do one print at the time and then wash the screen. In the future I will be posting a video which will show you the printing process. Photos and video by my daughter Clara Gaiba.

This project followed on from the Alfa Romeo commission of 2009. Nina was asked to design an installation for the Blickfang design exhibition held in Vienna in 2010 and out of this came Believe Liar.

This important installation embodies many of the themes which are evident throughout Nina’s work: the busy and intense style of design which covers the whole space with repeating, frantic, narrative blocks of illustration; the use of identical pattern on a range of domestic surfaces – walls, furniture and furnishings; and a subject matter that is based on the domestic sphere, in this case, the relationship of deception that exists at the core of one couple’s domestic life.

Believe Liar shows a snapshot in their lives – the domesticated wife at home, lost in dreams – perhaps paranoid dreams, perhaps naïve dreams, we cannot tell. The design around her tells a tale of betrayal – a husband who makes a morning visit to a prostitute. We see his own moral ambivalence and doubt – the head says ‘no’, the penis says ‘yes’. Within the installation as a whole, reality is hard to grasp. The whole scene has a dreamlike quality to it. The wife blends into the domestic setting and almost disappears. Indeed, only her bare legs are visible. At once this suggests her insignificance, the way in which the domestic life consumes and dehumanises. In this way, the deception becomes a defining part of her. Does she accept the situation? Is the situation real, or merely a figment of her bored or paranoid imagination? We do not know. We are not told. What remains is a feeling of the sickness and lifelessness at the core of the relationship.

This is a domestic narrative rather than a snapshot. We see the life of a prostitute who has married a client, had a child, and has allegedly been saved from a life of drudgery and degradation to inhabit a world of respectability, fulfilment and freedom. The reality is different however, and we see that the woman finds no relief from the humiliation and boredom of her new role. Sad and lonely she has lost her identity and finds it hard to face her present reality. The design is suffused with negativity. The title alludes to the ending of the story – the fact that by some means or another, she will walk out of the marriage – either by divorce, murder or suicide.

 

This collection encapsulates much of what makes Nina’s style so challenging and bold. The work was commissioned in 2009 by Illustrative an organization that showcases fresh, innovative and new design, and Cult Work. The purpose was to celebrate the centenary of the Italian car manufacturer, Alfa Romeo. Nina had spent a month of frantic activity and considerable financial expense to interpret the design brief. In her wallpaper and ceramics she creates a complex swirl of action and movement in which she juxtaposes the hard, metallic, powerfully male automobile against the softer, more sexual and provocative female figures who tangle the design. She explores the car as an extension of male power that impacts forcefully on its environment. Her work fearlessly explores the negative impact of the automobile. For example, she transposes the Alfa Romeo snake logo into a human intestine, expelling faeces. In the accompanying collection of ceramic lampshades, cups and bowls, female figures and phallic cars dissolve into one another and are absorbed into the structure of the object.

Ironically, although perhaps unsurprisingly, although Nina worked with many of the unspoken, subliminal values and images that are crucial to the success of car advertising – power, masculinity, sexual dominance and sexual prowess – the explicitness and exaggeration of Nina’s interpretation might have been too bold and unsettling for Alfa Romeo. They withdrew support for the project, leaving Nina considerably out of pocket and demoralised, but artistically invigorated by the design process itself. The project crystallised in her mind the difficulty that she faces when trying to make her frequently difficult work commercial, but the experience also resulted in the birth of a new style of art. The dense, complete coverage of a surface that she created for this project was to reappear in much of the art that followed on from it and has become a hallmark of her design technique.