'English Family China' 1998 - Christine Borland

Ceramic, glass and wood

Through meticulous research, Borland - who was short-listed for the 1997 Turner Prize - explores life, death and how social systems and institutions exploit and devalue life. In 'English Family China' a number of real human skulls, imported from South America via the USA - one foetal, one adult male, one adult female and one six year old child - are her starting point. Versions of these were cast in bone china, the material developed in Britain for fine table-wares as an alternative to Oriental porcelain; 18th century Liverpool was a major centre of porcelain production. The skulls' blue-on-white marine motifs are typical of the Liverpool factories. Displayed in 'nuclear family' groups they examine history, mortality and morality, notably Liverpool's role in the Slave Trade.

Purchased with the aid of Art Transpennine (1999); commissioned for artranspennine98 supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England (No.1999.57).