· By Kate Hawkins
A bedroom at Sundborn, the home of Karin and Carl Larsson where the painters lived with their eight children.
In these late summer months just before school starts again I’ve found myself thinking about liminal in-between time, the idea of bordering and being on the cusp of something creative in the broadest possible sense. Below I’ve drawn together some thoughts exploring this a little more.
We now find ourselves in that eager moment between summer and autumn, which we are readying ourselves to move through once again. We are restless but optimistic and smell change in the air - we are on the border about to cross between seasons.
Tove Jansson painting the fresco Party in the Countryside at the Helsinki City Hall, restaurant Kaupunginkellari, 1947 © Helsinki City Museum / Foto Roos.
Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist and writer who was born in August of 1914, writes:
'I love borders. August is the border between summer and autumn; it is the most beautiful month I know. Twilight is the border between day and night, and the shore is the border between sea and land. The border is longing: when both have fallen in love but still haven't said anything. The border is to be on the way. It is the way that is the most important thing.'
I love the idea of being ‘on the way’ but not there yet: the anticipation and slight trepidation that a big journey brings, or that feeling you get just before you are about to embark on a new project but after you’ve had the idea. It’s the not-quite-knowing but the sensing of it all the same: that excited in-between.
Richard Long's A Line Made by Walking, 1967.
Richard Long was also intrigued by in-betweens and fluid states. His ‘Line Made by Walking’ is a lovely lyrical example of being ‘on the way’. According to the Tate the piece was made on one of Long’s journeys to St Martin’s from his home in Bristol. Between hitchhiking lifts, he stopped in a field in Wiltshire where he walked backwards and forwards until the flattened turf caught the sunlight and became visible as a line.
Here you read Long’s line as the lightest part of the field of grass. Your eye is drawn to it and now it becomes the focus too: the highlight. A decorative wallpaper border or painted frieze can also be read as a line through space. And I like to think of wallpaper borders as highlights as you find in paintings - they have the potential to bring together elements of a canvas and create a real sense of light and shade in a room.
I designed my Ivy Chaplet border so that it could work in this way. Below, its creamy, warm background acts as a highlighter to the darker grounds of the sludge walls and sky-blue ceiling while its wine-coloured ivy garland picks up other reds in the room.
My Ivy Chaplet border in our bedroom at home in London.
But I’d urge you to use borders with caution. Just as geographical borders can divide, so can decorative ones. Only use them if they bring your space together and create connection instead of alienation. Make sure they are adding clarity rather than confusion, highlighting as opposed to depreciating, and framing, not confining ideas. It’s perhaps useful to think of them less as frontiers and more as in-betweens or even go-betweens. The joyful thing about in-betweens is how they brim with possibility. You could go one way or the other or you could keep crossing over again and again. Back and forth forever. You can cross borders between disciplines, materials, palettes and still stay friends.
I am generally in favour of self-imposed borders or boundaries, or even the frame of a brief, as creatively they give me a structure I know I need in order to be able to make. But there is always a ‘fine line’ between limits that are too thick or too thin. And beware of limits imposed by others.
The dining room at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex.
The Bloomsbury group were not ones for sticking in their boxes. Known as a collective who 'lived in squares … and loved in triangles’, they were irreverent rule breakers. They ended up living at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex because of their status as conscientious objectors during the First World War. They aided the war effort by growing fruit and vegetables there and alongside that they painted. Anything really. Canvases, ceramics, lampshades, walls, floors, architraves, cornices. They entirely embraced the art of creating in-between as well as living on the margins, and their lively legacy lives on today.
Detail from the dining room at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex. The walls were stencilled by Duncan Grant with some help from Quentin Bell.
So whether you embrace the connection that borders bring like Tove Jansson, tread your own path in the style of Richard Long, or paint right up to (and over) the edges as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant chose to, I believe it is these spaces in-between where you will find real chemistry and creative possibility. If you feel lost, always look there.
Corner of the studio at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, home to the Bloomsbury Group.
View our border collection here.