Tanks & Tablecloths is a collaboration between artists Elizabeth Masterton and Lizzie Ridout. In 2004, we chanced upon an image of a soldier camouflaging artillery with a tablecloth. We were intrigued by the absurdity, yet entire practicality of using a tablecloth to camouflage a large gun. There’s a tension between the clean, lacy tablecloth and the dirty, rugged gun-and by extension,the soldier draping the cloth delicately over it. Soon after, we found 'Shoot Straight Lady' in a book of Second World War recipes. Where the soldier presented the military with a hint of the domestic, this second image demonstrated the domestic with the suggestion of military strategy, poise and efficiency. These two images raised a variety of questions in our minds which encouraged us to explore the relationship between the military and the domestic in more detail. And this was when Tanks & Tablecloths was born.

Three inch gun of the US 75th Infantry division, camouflaged with lace tablecloth
Belgium, 13 January 1945. Copyright DAVA-US Army

Shoot Straight Lady
Courtesy Imperial War Museum

Chapter 2: Plymouth Arts Centre

Combed Tops
Date unknown
Samples of wool ‘tops’ used for spinning yarn
783 x 385 x 55 mm
DNHC collection

The Measure of a Man I [4 Fathoms]
Wool from one disassembled navy surplus pullover, spun into rope
7320 x 20 mm

Date unknown
453 x 234 x 405 mm
DNHC collection

The Measure of a Man III [Worth His Salt/Test His Mettle]
Plymouth Sound sea salt on brass
600 x 600 x 2 mm CZ108 brass sheet; 350g of salt made from Plymouth Sound seawater

Various sizes
DNHC collection

Belli Dura Despicio [Broadside]
29.7km line on 150 broadside sheets
Digital print on 55 gsm newsprint
750 x 520 mm, folded to 375 x 260mm

Still from Quercus Regius: 00:58-01:29
Digital film
Black & white, 31 minute loop

New artworks, shown alongside selected artefacts from the ‘unseen’ archive of Devonport Naval Heritage Centre (DNHC), testing our concept of ‘an exploded book' - an experiment in ‘reading’ the interrelationships of text, object and place. [Read more]

Photos: Andy Ford
Chapter 1: Newlyn Art Gallery

Spit & Polish 1
Laser cut leather cutlery
Sizes vary

Plotting table [Tanks & Tablecloths]
Plywood, pine, vinyl
2440 x 2440 x 1000 mm

Hedera Xileh
Desks, lamps, desktop materials, felt laser-cut ivy leaves

In Chapter 1, we transformed the gallery space into a participatory 'operations room', inviting visitors to explore links between the military and the domestic in a series of experimental artworks which evolved in the space over the course of the exhibition. [Read more]

Photos: Steve Tanner

Our news, research, thoughts, findings, ruminations, peregrinations and dreams in the Tanks & Tablecloths blog.