This practice-led textile research project explores notions of tropical paradise
from the perspective of a European imagination. It critiques colonial myths
of tropical paradise that have been perpetuated through visual art including
textile design and wallpaper. The design practice is informed by a review
of french scenic wallcoverings, tropical prints in popular culture and the
paintings of Henri Rousseau and Paul Gauguin and a visual analysis of how
colour, pattern repeat, motif, symbolism and embroidery work together to
construct an idealised notion of the tropics.
The design responses liken colonialism to domestication and extends the
same sense of control, domination, structure and regularity to historic textile
design, effectively placing traditional processes and practices in textile
pattern composition under review. In the creative works, paradise has not
been rejected, but instead, it has been inhabited, explored, embellished and
highlighted in order to captivate nostalgia and critique prevailing myths
fostered by nineteenth century colonial paradigms of paradise.
The three design works employ digital embroidery and digital textile print to
re-present three selected myths: Arcadia which explores the expectation of
tropical abundance informed by a story from James Cook’s voyages, Living
in a Fool’s Paradise reframes the palm tree emblem in a bid to purge colonial
nostalgia and Embellished Phantasmagoria re-visions the fecundity of the
tropical environment. Each work offers a critique of the inauthenticity of
paradise perceived through a European lens.