Euphrosyne Andrews - Catalogue Essay
Originally published in Euphrosyne Andrews’ publication ‘Soft Edges, Draw Close’, published by Foolscap Editions
April 2022

Conceptual considerations of crossed thresholds and blurred boundaries have long been a staple of Euphrosyne Andrews’ multidisciplinary art practice. Such separations, the partitioning of public and private space; the often incongruous gendering of these spaces, or the inherent delimitations between the man-made and the mass-produced, are each investigated within artworks that marry traditional craft processes with contemporary techniques or technologies. Maintaining a self-awareness of her chosen medium and repeated motifs, Andrews also engages directly with the wider history of decorative or applied art, highlighting their cultural, societal and political importance.

The hierarchical differentiation between different communal spaces, especially the demarcation of a Third Place, those liminal, neutral sites separate from the home, or First Place, and the workplace, Second Place, has long interested Andrews. These social spaces (cafes, libraries, cinemas, galleries) were championed by American sociologist Ray Oldenburg as the principal settings of contemporary civil society and key to creating a community structured on civic engagement and democracy. Andrews explores the shared aesthetics of such third places, which often employ decorative arts as a tool to dictate social behaviour and interpersonal interactions. Department stores, in particular, with their unexpected usages of fine or applied arts, expose the similarities between an art viewer and an average customer, with attention paid to spatial arrangement and the calculated curation of mass-produced consumer products.

This accepted contrast between man-made artworks and manufactured merchandise recalls the significant status of the multiple within decorative art and Andrews’ research into the Functionalist principles of the Krásná Jizba art movement. Established in post-war Prague in 1927, and translated as The Beautiful Room, this group of artists, designers and architects promoted modern art and design through the mass-production and mass-marketing of homewares. By combining aesthetics and affordability, they understood the power of the utilitarian art object to traverse systemic class structures (their products notably found their way into the Presidential dining room, alongside many regular households); define the era’s aspirational imagery; incite wider lifestyle changes and develop their consumer’s cultural taste.

Krásná Jizba’s artworks often incorporated references to local, historical handicraft techniques, demonstrating the potential of the applied arts to document a place, populace or time period, with many mediums and processes being passed down generationally. Similarly, Andrews’ ongoing exploration of floral forms attests to how this main motif of decorative art was once utilised to document scientific studies and discoveries, with specific native species readily recorded and archived through printed portrayals. The prevalence and popularity of floral imagery within the applied arts’ oeuvre have inadvertently led to the demarcation of decorative arts as woman’s work; the politicisation of craft forms and the introduction of the concept of gendered domestic space.

The format of this very publication foregrounds many of the fabricated frontiers addressed by Andrews’ artistic practice. Reflective of her recent exhibition ‘Soft Edges, Draw Close’ at KARST Gallery (2022), artworks are grouped into Viewing Rooms, conventionally segregated spaces with an exclusionary air. Here, its use of a wire-o binding; truncated pages; multiple paper stocks and occasional obscurantism of details behind translucent paper imitating the sheer fabric of Andrews’ textiles, all emulate swatch sets or sample books. Such catalogues are commonly used commercially to provide consumers with a curated selection of options but are also found in abundance within local and national archives as reference material for research into historical textile production and social working practices.