A new exhibition of paintings and prints by contemporary British artist Ben Deakin explores the legacy of William Morris's utopian novel News from Nowhere (1890).
In Reimagining Nowhere Deakin is particularly interested in combining historical and contemporary landscape painting styles and repeat patterns bringing an immediate connection to William Morris’s designs. The exhibition, hosted by The William Morris Society, consists of paintings and prints some newly created and others seen in Deakin’s first solo exhibition Seeking News from Nowhere at the Concept Space in 2018.
As well as being informed by Morris’s 1890 novel, Reimagining Nowhere is also influenced by other quasi-utopian literature particularly that of EA Abbott, HG Wells and Aldous Huxley. Other influences include the surrealist painter and war artist Paul Nash and the artist Graham Sutherland who worked in glass, fabrics, prints and portraits.
William Morris was a committed socialist and ‘News from Nowhere’ first appeared in the form of serial publication in the Socialist League’s journal Commonweal between January and October in 1890. It seems particularly fitting that Reimagining Nowhere take place in the Coach House at Kelmscott House as the property – albeit in an altered form – features as the house in which the novel’s narrator wakes up or begins his dream. Morris also wrote sections of the novel whilst living at Kelmscott House and the Coach House was a lecture room and meeting place for the Hammersmith Branch of the Socialist League.