Picture Chekhov's cherry orchard after the aristocratic Gayev family have been forced out of their beloved estate, where the remains of their farewell picnic have been left behind, porcelain plates, teacups and sugar bowls now crawling with ants. This is the sensation that you get when you encounter German artist Evelyn Bracklow's hand-painted antique-style china pieces, a jarring yet playful impression of decayed grandeur.
Titled “Chitins Gloss” and produced under Bracklow’s artistic pseudonym “La Philie”, the series consists of old porcelain crockery that she meticulously adorns with ants. Using a fine brush to hand-paint the life-size ants in great detail, it takes Bracklow at the minimum three hours to finish each unique piece after which they are baked at 160 degrees. Taking great care to make the ants as naturalistic as possible, both in their shape but also in their bustling formations, the finished plates, bowls, cups and other tableware are products of exquisite craftsmanship that display a mastery in trompe l'oeil.
Inspired by a chance encounter with a carelessly placed plate, Bracklow’s work is meant to evince, in her own words, “fear, disgust, fascination, and admiration”, an interplay of feelings sparked by the juxtaposition between the luxuriousness and elegance that the white porcelain, often featuring gold foil outlines, alludes to, and the creepiness and repulsion that the ant infestations provoke. But more than that, “the ants symbolize all the stories that any formerly discarded piece of porcelain carries with it”. And indeed, after the initial bafflement, you start to wonder where these vintage porcelain items were left for insects to crawl all over them, why and by whom, making your own stories as you serve yourself a cup of tea.