A bed and breakfast in the heart of Liverpool’s docklands. The landlady present, although absent, through her penchant for stacks of starched crocheted doilies and little lace mats and kitschy mismatched clutter and a fur coat with oddly embroidered inserts. Cold yellow 1960s kitchen cabinets, depressing in their mean dimensions. A sad bedside table with broken horn-rimmed spectacles and a battered clock and one of those watches with an elasticated metallic wristband that catches the hairs on your arm.
Here we have the fantasy creation of Doug Jones’ Lares et Panates installation. With an empathetic eye for period detail and feel, the artist has created a series of period domestic tableaux – rooms – within a tight white space in the centre of Ceri Hand Gallery’s large exhibition space. Despite the knickknacks, it’s a somewhat cold and uninviting B&B, perhaps the last refuge of some poor soul on benefits.
But as intriguing and evocative of past times as they were, for me the room settings were but the backdrop to a series of carefully crafted and remarkably entertaining needlepoint works adorning the walls. At first glance, the sort of chunky ready-to-sew needlepoints you can buy in kit form from any craft shop: a canvas pre-printed with a multicoloured well-known image complete with woollen yarn. At second glance, however, the pieces are something other. In Doug Jones’ work, the bucolic, the pastoral, the picturesque is shattered by the intrusive day-glo yellow of the warning signs and regulation ubiquitous in modern society.
Even if one were tempted to seek refuge in a B&B such as this, there can be no feeling of safety and security once there. Whether as a metaphor for the broader experience of living in contemporary society or as commentary on the overbearing regulation which pervades our lives, Lares et Panates has much worthwhile to say.
Lares et Panates is on at Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool until 19 March 2011