Jhere’s a chest of drawers or display cabinet in almost any room in the home of artist Mark Hearld. In the front room, for example, he commissioned a local cabinetmaker to build a huge architectural “cabinet of curiosities.” Placed on shelves or hidden under arches, objects and ephemera have been collected over a lifetime of making, researching, trading and collecting. “Laurence Sterne’s bust on the top shelf is based on Shandy Hall by Joseph Nollekens,” Hearld explains. “The crepe paper party hat he wears comes from the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris. I put the two together in an irreverent couple, as I felt the bust was a bit too serious for my house. The party hat brings it to life in a sort of fusion of literary high culture and 1930s party culture — a bohemian mashup, if you will.
For Hearld – whose work encompasses collage, textile and wallpaper design, linocut printing and sculpture – the art of bargain hunting is an act of creativity. “I find buying or finding an item is quite similar to creating one yourself,” he previously explained. “They both respond to a similar aesthetic impulse. Obviously, if you do, it’s a bit more virtuous, but if you find something cheap and bring it home, it almost feels like an act of creativity. And then placing it next to other things is like making a 3D collage.
Hearld lives in central York, in a four-story house from late Georgia. Over the years a Victorian extension has been added and an infill extension from the 70s has had a glass roof making it ‘good for exhibitions’. From the street, passers-by will notice a tall, illuminated robin peering out the central bay window – a salvaged 1960s Christmas decoration that once perched above a store awning. “I like decorative or theatrical things,” says Hearld. “And objects that seem a little improbable in an interior. Even if I wanted to be tasteful, I would probably end up being a little raspy by mistake.
Raucous is an apt description. Hearld’s latest exhibition and forthcoming book are both titled Raucous invention – The joy of making. Together they celebrate the vitality and imperfection of Hearld’s work. The book in particular explores how the exuberance of her work spills into and through her home. “I definitely feel like art and life are one,” says Hearld.
Hearld’s work is constantly inspired by nature. He studied illustration in Glasgow, then natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art. It follows that creatures of all shapes and sizes appear throughout his home – a life-size terracotta goose on a chest of drawers, decoy ducks, a frozen magpie hare behind a glass display case and a glorious tiled mural in the bedroom. kitchen representing a flock of peacocks in freedom. .
But birds and animals are just one of the interests of this semi-obsessive collector – Staffordshire pottery, children’s toys and mochaware also abound. Hearld is also drawn to everyday objects designed by artists, such as his 1930s coffee service designed by English artist Graham Sutherland. On another overcrowded chest of drawers in the “stone room” (the original Georgian kitchen – hence the flagstone floor) is a display of pieces by contemporary potters in slipware, such as Dylan Bowen, Geoffrey Fuller and Paul Young . “I’m very interested in the work of living artists and I like the idea of not just being a good artist,” he explains. “I like the idea of designing things that people use, or rather ephemeral objects that only delight and enrich.”
I ask Hearld to explain how making his house – which he describes as “just the good side of bohemian chaos” – is comparable to the process of creating a collage. We study the yellow fireplace in his front room and he describes how there is a formality to the placement of the two corn carts, which have been formed into the shape of a Devonshire cross. His EQ Nicholson collage is similarly positioned, as are the chandeliers and the pack of wooden dogs running along the picture rail above. But, rather than sticking to that, the scene is covered in letters, cards and found objects – “the trash and ephemera that life throws in find their way,” says Hearld.
With him, as in his art, it is a question of finding the value of discarded pieces of paper. “Placing objects in a room is like sticking together pieces of paper,” Hearld explains. “With collage, certain artifacts or pieces of paper are thoughtfully and schematically placed to provide structure. And then other aspects – perhaps surprising or jarring – weave their way alongside these thoughtful elements. It’s being open enough to find that discarded piece of paper, really only to picture yourself, but being there adds exponentially to the dynamics of the image. It is the tension between these two things that creates energy and liveliness. To me, that’s why so many interior-designed pieces fall short – they feel too rehearsed. It’s a life lived in a room that makes it exciting, I think.
Raucous Invention: The Joy of Making by Mark Hearld is published by St Jude’s Prints, £35 (stjudesprints.co.uk)