The National Print Gallery is proud to present The Stately Aquariums of England by David Ferry. This is a stunning new suite of prints that explore an imagined collision of two very different worlds: the commercial efforts of the asset rich, cash poor aristocrats of the 1960’s who grudgingly opened the doors of their ancestral homes to the great British public; and the desire by aquarists to furnish their fish tanks with increasingly bizarre and inappropriate aquarium ornaments from the human world that bear no relation to the natural domain of fish. In Ferry’s luscious images, bemused fish navigate a strange under water kingdom where state rooms adorned with fine tapestries and paintings are furnished with submerged London buses, and pirate galleons are becalmed in the drives of turreted stately homes.
Fish fanciers consider their hobby to be a creative pursuit, the piscine tenants of their fantastic environments becoming moving elements in a work of art. Ferry has celebrated this conceit and gently acknowledged both the kitsch world of “aquarium ornaments” and the upwardly mobile aspirations of the creators of these miniature environments, a fantasy world in a tank bubbling away on the sideboard. The scale of the images also suggest an alternative interpretation: a sci-fi future in which England is submerged, and giant mutant fancy fish swim freely through the deserted rooms of our great houses. His medium of montage is both a physical and an intellectual pursuit: the interventions he makes in the images, and the juxtaposition of unlikely and disparate aspects of our culture to deconstruct the notion of British national identity and heritage.
Ferry’s Book Arts and Printmaking create a very individual footprint in contemporary art, and bear witness to the influences of John Heartfield and the classic photomontage tradition. The creative process starts with his defilement of existing books (over 20 in as many years), usually tourist guides from the innocent post war years of the 1950’s and 1960’s, which he deftly subverts using highly selected donor material. Ferry explains, “The search for donor material is part of the process of creative recycling, adding a new ingredient, a cycle of change and appropriation”.
Ferry has exhibited extensively in the UK and throughout the world, including solo exhibitions in Berlin, New York, Poznan and Seoul. His work can be found in public and corporate collections including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Ashmolean, Oxford; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He is a past recipient of a Pollock / Krasner major award, and a new seat as Professor of Printmaking and Book Arts was created for him at the Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2010.