‘Opus Playgirlum’ branches out - as an organic extension - from the previous work ‘You Can Learn a Lot of Things From the Flowers’. The two series share common grounds in the language/representation of the natural world and the preoccupation of preserving found imagery for posterity through appropriation. In this case the focus is shifted from female to male body and scientific botany it’s replaced by a poetic, more idealistic representation of nature in accordance to the philosophy and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The title itself is borrowed from ‘Opus Anglicanum’, a very sought after needlework and embroidery style in Medieval England, examples of which are now in the collections of major museums. The products, mainly ecclesiastical, were considered luxury items and often used as diplomatic gifts. At the beginning of his career William Morris was immensely inspired by this style and translated it in many natural motifs in his wallpaper and chintz designs.
The handwork and the time consuming labor take center stage in ‘Opus Playgirlum’. Paolo Giardi is directly putting William Morris’s philosophies into practice, placing great value on work, craftsmanship and the inherent beauty of materials. In applying such a laborious and intricate process of cutting out, reminiscent of ancient embroidery, the mundane naked subject of an erotic magazine becomes a timeless item.
The disputable reputation of the paper centerfold, in this case for woman or man’s private consumption, is translated here, with the presence of Morris’ designs, into an almost sacred and devotional icon to be carefully preserved like a piece fabric of historic relevance. Ornate birds, fruits and leaves frame, overlap and interact with the male body. In ‘Opus Playgirlum’ the common erotic pin-up poster becomes a luxury item through the sheer value of the artist’s hand.
William Morris - Larkspur design for wall paper and fabric © Morris & Co.