Sunday 21 September 2008

My Walls

I've shown you round my flat before. I've not actually shown you my taste in wall hangings though. Some of you won't be surprised, others of you probably will.

Because in fact, I don't live in a Spartan home composed of Ikea furniture and a brave new world of modernism. I have quite eclectic tastes and the odd guilty secret.

The image above hangs above the fake fire in the living room, in case anyone is tempted to believe that the apparently bohemian and alternative lifestyle of the inhabitant negates the Catholicity of the household...

I collect what you might describe as replica antique maps. They're not genuine obviously, they're prints. I guess you could describe this as one of my guilty secrets. My boss once said 'I bet your home is full of incense and bean bags and banners on the walls'.
Well, banners there are, as you would have seen in the post where I showed you round, but incense is rarely a feature, and bean bags in fact, noticeable by their absence.

It is in fact a guilty pleasure of mine to trawl little old curiosity shops looking for interesting maps and the like to hang on the walls. Often they have personal significance- the Emerald Isle above, for example has a prominent position, but sometimes they're chosen because they're interesting.

This map of the world, for example. It was chosen mainly because of how wrong it is. In many respects it is partly cartographically correct. But a look at the western coast of America, the bizarre misconceptions of the zone between Asia and America, amongst other features make it interesting to look up at, as I lie on the couch pondering the subjectivity of human knowledge.

Worcestershire is not the county where I was born, but it is kind of the area I was raised. Or more specifically, the northern part, what is now the green fringes of Britain's second city. A good part of what is shown on this map has now been subsumed by Birmingham, and though where I live is still outside the city boundary, there isn't much greenery in between. When I lived in what is now the Inner city, it was possible for me to physically walk to the houses of friends who lived in what was still by today's standards inner Birmingham, and yet these places are actually villages on this map- King's Norton, Yardley etc. Notice as well that at that time the county, as did most counties, possessed a number of little exclaves, enclaves and detached portions. Both Dudley and Shipston on Stour lay in parts of the county detached from the main body and Worcestershire had about eight of these, I think.

This proclamation hangs on the living room door. Just in case anyone feels tempted to forget the kind of beliefs I tend to have. The document is, I believe one of the most inspiring documents ever written. If you haven't ever read the Proclamation of Independence of the Irish Republic, I recommend you do so. Of course, visitors to my flat often don't get the choice.

And some aren't chosen for much reason at all.

I don't really have much more space to hang things, without making the place look like a gallery and as it stands I find I periodically rotate the hangings because I have spare ones sitting behind the dining table (No, I have never yet eaten at the dining table. It really is just for show). I sometimes think about trying to get hold of some Bosch prints, because I often think they'd look quite impressive, but aside from that, my tastes are actually surprisingly conservative in some ways. At times I even worry they might be a little too...

I don't know. I always laugh at the kind of people who go to garden centres and buy stone lions to adorn either side of a foot wide path that leads all of the ten feet it takes to reach the garden shed that is otherwise the sole feature of their box-sized garden.

I find people who get excited by the possibility of putting daido rails along the ceiling clearly have too much time on their hands.

I do not, and probably never will, see why people are prepared to pay over a thousand pounds for a bed that looks like Charles II might have made love to Neil Gwynne in it, when getting it up the staircase of the average three bedroomed semi was not a problem Charles II ever faced.

I got my King sized double for a hundred quid. And it does me fine.

So yes, I'm tempted to smirk at the affectations of the average 'bourgeois' homeowner, I guess. But sometimes I wonder if some of my tastes might not themselves appear affected to others. There is, after all, something very typically 'bourgeois' about having replica antique maps on your walls.

But then I think, none of them actually cost me more than a tenner. I'm not sticking stuff on the walls because it's expensive, or people think it looks grand. Ultimately, I'm sticking things on the walls I like to look at.

I suppose in some ways, I can be a little elitist when it comes to art and taste in my own way. Perhaps we all are.

Still, I like what I like.


Anonymous said...

I have maps on my walls!

Anonymous said...

We have one genuine antique map of North and South America, which is rather amorphous and incorrect on the west coast, well and rather error prone on the east coast too.
It's in Italian, since it came from an Italian atlas, from the late 1700s probably. Given to us by an Italian friend who found it in Sienna, his home town.

Of course most antique maps are pages from early atlases, printed and then hand coloured.

I also brought home an replica of an antique map of the world to give to my son, from a trip to Italy and it hangs over his fireplace.

Actually I might nick this idea for a post sometime Crushed, if you don't mind.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I never really thought about old maps. But I totally understand your facination now...

Anonymous said...

I love old maps and antique shops. I would definitely hang some of these in my home. They are totally fascinating. I like the idea of you on the couch pondering the human existence.....

Anonymous said...

I love that icon. And speaking of maps, have you tried getting printings of truly old maps, such as the Babylonian world map, or that map found at Catal Huyuk? I might have some pictures of them knocking around somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised, maps are great and interesting. Yes, paintings can look good, but maps can provide not only a great piece to look at, a valuable learning aid as well. Sounds dorky? I think not, well done. Please tell me you dont sit on the lounge and eat dinner?

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes- I find them way more interesting than dull watercolours and pictures of vases, etc.

I do actually find them quite thought provoking at times.

jmb- Well, maps of the Americas often had a semi-political purpose at the time, vis a vis the west coast.

No one knew whether or not there WAS a North west passage or other such easy route by sea from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but mapmakers often wanted to sell the idea, or not, as they case might be. Maps of the time- and indeed in other ages too often reflected the unknown as the mapmaker hoped it was, for political reasons.

The Portugese actually used to go to great pains to keep their cartographical discoveries secret- it is generally conceded they discovered Australia about a hundred years than the Dutch- it appears on Portugese maps- but they kept it to themselves.

Of course, even Captain Cook's voyages were a national secret at the time.

Feel free :)

Bud- I think they give us a wealth of information beyond the simple cartographical facts. They encapsulate how a place was seen then, especially these maps of the English shires. I a sense, they show us what these names meant then, as opposed to now.

Mimi- You can get them quite cheaply here, but you often have to scout around for them.

Many a post began life as an idle speculation on that couch, sipping a cup of tea...

Ginro- I've had it a long time. I have a sneaking appreciation of Byzantine art. The Hagia Sophia is something I really want to see. I actually find the culture fascinating in itself, because it is part of one of the great myths of history- that there was a dark age. Er-no. It nevr happened. All that actually happened was that the British Isles dropped out of the loop. Civilisation continued and advanced thoroughly in the mediterranean.

What I wouldn't mind is a copy of Ptolemy's atlas. I have a replica of the Mappa Mundi, but I've never bothered getting it framed.

Mercator's orginal Atlas would be interesting to have too, I think.

I think the oldest known map is Egyptian, though I could be wrong. Unless you're Erich Von Daniken. in which case the Piri Reis map is the oldest. Produced by aliens in the Pliocene, or other such drivel.

When I was in my teens I actually spent DAYS doing a wall sized atlas of Middle Earth in agonising detail, far more detailed than the onces in the frontipiece of LOTR. No idea what happened to it.

Nunyaa- I think, as I say, they're more conceptually stimulating, quite often. Though I wouldn't mind some Bosch artwork. Then again, I like Bosch because of the dark, almost surrealist interpretations of the themes handled. Hence the abundance of Bosch images hidden away in the sidebar.

Well, I have a dining table in there, but I never use it. Sorry to say, but I do eat dinner with the remote in my hand. Sometimes I eat it with the plate next to me at this desk too, actually.

I tend to multitask as I eat...