Katie Horwich: suburban exoticism
Artist Katie Horwich reveals in her own words how she found elements of the exotic in suburban North Finchley.
When I was growing up in North Finchley, I think I was always looking for somewhere a bit more exciting to go. When I was a teenager I would always look out for the bright lights of the West End or Camden. So as with anywhere you grow up, you can’t wait to get out of there and find somewhere else. That’s why this project was a mission for me to come back and notice things that I hadn’t noticed before, especially within the Grand Arcade.
In MoDA’s collections there was this navy, kind of midnight blue, wallpaper [SW869]. It’s a picture of a lady with a Japanese fan and she’s standing on her balcony, lit up by a silvery moon, all illustrated in a very 1920s way.
And as I’m standing at the top of Nether Street looking down, there’s a block of flats shielded by a cedar tree. And the way that the cedar tree is meeting the skeletons of the other trees on the other side felt reminiscent of this wallpaper. Especially as the moon is played by a belisha beacon that is not flashing.
And that’s when I started to think about how you could transpose these motifs that have somehow found their way from Japan to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture to North Finchley. It seemed like a long journey. But then I thought about how designers who worked for the Silver Studio often used motifs of plant life and flowers and birds and all kinds of exoticism.
So I set off exploring the area again with these new eyes, and it helped that it was a really scorching summer. I spent a lot of time sitting on kerbs, watching as the sun hit a palm tree and reflected on Waitrose. And so I did drawings of that sunlight hitting North Finchley, burying myself in local area and looking for something exotic in somewhere suburban.