Abstract Expressionism — or “Ab Ex” as co-curator and art historian David Anfam affectionately calls it — is the Royal Academy’s blockbuster autumn show. It has just opened and runs into the new year.
Here is art on a grand scale, with the great American masters of the movement, such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, brushing, dripping and swirling colour. Effects vary from an extreme crackling energy to surprising serenity.
Such London shows always feed rapidly into the patterns of home design, so for autumn we have abundant swirling abstracts — from the bold and brash to more muted styles for a softer domestic setting.
Scottish designer Dana Finnigan quotes Dutch abstract artist Willem de Kooning — “I don’t paint to live, I live to paint” — and has called her ultra-splashy patterns Live to Paint. They are inspired by changing seasons in the Low Countries, where she was an exchange student. Linen fabrics are £120 a metre, velvets are £160 a metre. Wallpaper comes super-wide at £99 a roll.
Contemporary American artist Kiki Slaughter says she’s “taking up the baton” of the American abstract expressionists, pouring, scraping and layering paint onto her canvas. Innovative wallpaper house Feathr loves to turn art into wallpaper. It is selling her design Oh La La at £119 for a 10-metre roll (in blue, ice, sand or gold).
Maxine Hall, design director of edgy British decor label Blackpop, has been inspired by the New York abstract expressionist movement of the Forties and Fifties for a new collection called Homage, which is part opulence, part punk. Use fabrics and papers together for a total wipe-out. Wallpapers are super-wide at 79cm, in rolls at £216 a metre; fabrics cost £144 a metre. A velvet-upholstered 1938 fireside chair costs £1,062.
The late Zaha Hadid expressed her love of the early 20th-century abstracts of Suprematist Russian Kazimir Malevich in a china collection. It includes a Beam tea cup and saucer in fine bone china with gorgeous touches of gold leaf, at £130 for a set of two. There are also dinner, side-plates and bowls, all in limited editions at Selfridges.
As you might expect, the Royal Academy can offer details of the paintings themselves on punchy new merchandise, such as a detail from Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles or Number 11, 1952 now on bone china at £12.95.
Ceramics make good backgrounds for strong brushstrokes. Young potter Hanna Tounsend, based in West Sussex, reworks her surfaces over and over, sometimes adding fragments of text. Her porcelain beakers (10 cm high) cost £135 each at the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham, Surrey. Tounsend will be in a group show called Collective: A Maker’s Exhibition, coming to Craft Central, 33-35 St John’s Square, EC1, in November.
Experimenting with colours for a glaze can give ceramics a pleasingly abstract effect. London potter Helen Evans fires her work in stoneware at a very high temperature, merging colours and textures. She will be at Handmade in Kew, October 6-9, or contact Planet Ceramics.
Allistair Covell is an award-winning artist whose rugs have recently been bought by the National Wool Museum in Wales for their permanent collection. His striking abstracts cost from £600 at Rug-Maker. See them at the Wool BnB, open for Wool Week, October 10-16 in De Beauvoir Town, N1.
Newly arrived at Stark in Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, SW10, is Rug Star, a contemporary brand founded by Berlin-based designer Jürgen Dahlmanns. His striking Splash design is a generous 250cm by 300cm in size, in a blend of 60/40 silk/wool. It takes three people a whole day to hand-knot just 5cm of carpet.
Fi MacDonald trained at the Glasgow School of Art and much loved for her soft watercolour style, has painted a bolder abstract for a new wallpaper for her brand bluebellgray, which she set up in 2009. The Moray design comes in a set of two rolls, to make a width of 70cm at £360.
Klara Capouskova is a London-based artist who is adding her bold brushstrokes to floor cushions and fabrics. Floor cushions, 90cm by 90cm printed on both sides, cost £360 lined with piped edges and duck feather filling; smaller cushions, 50cm square, cost £160.
Armani’s Club Bar in ocean lacquer is made to order and costs £35,000 at Armani Casa UK, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour.