When Tim Hailand won a prestigious residency to live and work in Claude Monet’s old house in Normandy in 2012, he harboured dreams of working en plein air in the very same gardens that the painter once cast his famous eye over. The Normandy weather though had other plans, and the rainy days kept him largely indoors, where Hailand became more and more interested in the red and white toile de Jouy wallpaper in his bedroom.
Toile de Jouy (or simply toile) is a decorative style where a repeated pattern – often showing a pastoral scene – is overlaid on a plain background. It was hugely popular among the fashion-conscious classes in the UK and France around the 18th Century and went on to be widely adopted in the United States into the early 20th Century.
For Hailand, whose practice often involves rethinking the performative aspect of photography, toile de Jouy presented a fascinating new way to produce portraits. He started experimenting with printing images directly onto the fabric (both in Normandy and during a later residency at the Robert Rauschenberg studio, in Captiva Island, Florida).
He first exhibited this style of work in 2013 and he is now well-known for these wonderfully eye-catching and evocative fusions of photography and design. “The resulting effect,” he told Installation magazine, “reflected my ongoing fascination with themes of the interior world versus outside, real versus fake, light versus darkness as it relates to human nature, the notion of masculine and feminine representation, and the concept of camouflage.”
Now visitors to Art Basel Miami in December will be able to have their own portrait, or that of a loved one, created in Hailand’s now signature toile de Jouy style. It’s a rare opportunity to participate in an artistic process that although in some ways is very intellectually driven – exploring what photography is and how its boundaries can be blurred – is also admirably rooted in aesthetics.
As Hailand told Installation magazine: “Above all, beauty remains a driving force in my work.”