Esther Stewart: How to Decorate a Dump presents a colourful, three-dimensional diorama that continues Stewart’s enquiry into the aesthetics and ethos of DIY home improvements.
Stewart’s recent paintings and sculptures use geometric designs that reference the ornamental trappings of architecture and domestic interiors such as balustrades, lattices and tiles; patterns on rugs or wood paneling. Such decorative vocabularies appear in this site-specific work, which with its traditional fireplace and mantelpiece also evokes a nostalgic fetishing of olden day styles.
The exhibition title is borrowed from a 1983 home-renovation book by New York decorator Philip Almeida. Stewart’s interest in DIY manuals from the 1970s and 1980s stems from a fascination with what she calls ‘the utopian idea of domesticity’—the desire to create a personalised haven, even when reality falls short of our dreams. Idealised models for living embodied in flat-pack kit or display homes, dolls houses, pop-up books and theatre sets further inspire the model-like feel of this sculptural and painted environment.