Eduardo Paolozzi's hands: Collaging Culture at Pallant House

Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture

Cycling back from playing a ukulele gig at Lancing Royal British Legion club (they fed us tea and biscuits) with Wukulele's Harriet Booth, she told me that she had once met Eduardo Paolozzi. Harriet remarked on his charming manner and the size of his incredibly large, chunky hands. A photograph of Paolozzi's hands hangs outside the doors to the Level 2 rooms at Pallant House Gallery and it's hard to believe that these jumbo fingers created such intricate Pop Art collages, finely detailed drawings and textile print designs as well as his famous large scale sculptures.

Collaging Culture is a compelling and thorough retrospective of Paolozzi's work. The breadth of media he worked (and excelled) in and the diversity of his art is mind boggling. Exhibits include sculpture, screenprinted fabrics, drawings, prints, ceramics and film, as well as his collages - the main theme of the exhibition.

Paolozzi postcards from Pallant House Gallery
Postcards from Collaging Culture exhibition and superb free Pallant House Gallery Paolozzi bookmark!

It's difficult to say which parts of the show excited me most as I really loved it all. His printed textiles produced with Nigel Henderson for their Hammer Prints Ltd company are amazing. The fabrics feature pen and ink drawings of junk, fob clocks, toy trains and stuff found at Portobello Road flea market. There's a beautiful barkcloth top coffee table – a collaboration with Terence Conran – and a wonderful mustard furnishing fabric printed with fossils and organic forms produced by David Whitehead (you can still buy pieces of this for a pretty penny on Ebay).

Nigel Henderson & Eduardo Paolozzi: Hammer Prints Ltd 1954-75
I bought a copy Nigel Henderson & Eduardo Paolozzi: Hammer Prints Ltd 1954-75
at Pallant House Gallery bookshop. An excellent book.

I found it absorbing watching the changing patterns and textures in Paolozzi's black and white film The History of Nothing. It's a collage of sounds and textural images (found photographs, prints, specially created collages). My scrawled notes read back as a fairly accurate description of the film: domino, tower blocks, cogs, scratching music, huge macrame, sound of bells, clocks, Victorian girl doll in long knitted cape, sound of dog yapping, the word 'progress', hideous monkey grinning, skull with teeth, static din, engine starting, man/machine/robot, plinky plonk piano sounds... It's witty and whimsical and I loved the soundtrack of seemingly random bursts of noise.

With a head full of monochrome the next part of the exhibition took me by surprise as I stepped into the themed room Language Games: Prints and Sculpture in the 1960s. This is a riot of colour. Eduardo Paolozzi's art had a huge impact on the international art scene of the 60s and continues to influence artists and designers today – contemporary print designers owe much to his work. Melody Miller's fabulous Ephemera fabric reminds me of his Moonstrips Empire News series, Cilla Ramnek's glorious modern psychedelic patterns recall Paolozzi's As Is Now screenprints and Alison Milner's exquisite decal designs for ceramics reference Paolozzi's Sea Beasts collection of 19th century engravings of marine subjects which were printed onto ceramics, fabric and furniture.

I urge anyone with an eye for pattern, print and design to go and see this beautifully curated and inspirational exhibition. 

Eduardo Paolozzi Collaging Culture is at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 13 October 2013. 

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Left: Pallant House Gallery from the outside
Right: Jonas Ranson's Paolozzi inspired wallpaper hangs in the foyer Garden Gallery