Paint Box

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Alice in Wonderland - Tate Liverpool

A couple of weekends ago I went up to Liverpool to visit the Tate's Alice in Wonderland exhibition. These are some elements which I found interesting and may have an impact on my practice...

Very interesting to see the original drawings of Charles Dodgson and how contemporary artists like Kiki Smith have responded to them using a similar style of drawing. Smith has made her image appear rather more sinister as Alice is pursued by a flock of morose looking birds.
Liliana Porter's piece collage of rabbit hole ephemera indicates a jumbled and fractured story or pieces of a broken mirror. This brings a more textural element to collage and could link to image and object collections.

 I loved the ground floor room with the photographs byAnnalies Strba. They seemed very relevant to me as a sleeping figure had been transplanted into different constructed contexts. I really like the childlike dress, almost fancy dress like with a fairy quality to it. The background seems unreal with fractured shapes and light. In particular the top image shows the subject on what appears to be a mirror or very still water.

Peter Blake has again caught my attention, this time the Alice series which I have previously seen in other exhibitions. The saturated colour is very clean and appealing, however, the left hand image now appears static (I looked at this when I was working on the girl surrounded with flowers painting about 6 months ago). The right hand image although still static uses more of the body which is more the direction I want to explore with my work.

Francesca Woodman and  Duane Michels both use mirrors in their photographs to distort the body, face or environment. I particularly like Michels' right hand image which distorts scale and plays with the viewer's perception of the objects.
Yifat Bezalel's work in the exhibition was a series of drawings which seemed to have been part of a performance. I like the way the image is layered to portray movement, or multiple characters, or shadows and egos of the same girl. It reminds me of the some of the drawings I did in response to Claude Heath's work which were predominantly through touch.

I discovered Anna Gaskell's photos when I was researching for mapping the territory but I had anticipated the scale until I saw them at the exhibition. They were displayed in the same room as Francesca Woodman's work and seem to capture a similar playful but slightly uneasy mood. I love the way the body is distorted and cropped by the angle of the lens, the costume and implied reference to the story (work is untitled 'Wonder' series).

Even though Tim Walker's photos were not in the exhibition it seems relevant to re-reference them as the encompass the odd play with scale and story referencing of the other pieces. The play with scale and incorporation of creatures and fantasy characters imply a narrative without illustrating.


This was such a valuable exhibition for me to visit, not only because of my love for Alice but also to the see the way artists have responded so differently to the story and how the work was grouped by the curator to bring out themes. I think the figures in my paintings need a body as the way that the body fits inside the canvas can help to indicate a change of scale, flying, falling, sleeping or sinking. I will definitely be perusing using multiple subject or mirrors in images as this adds another worldly dimension to the image and also adds ambiguity as the audience becomes disorientated. I also intend to explore collage and drawing further as collections of linked objects could accompany larger paintings. This may also be explored in an altered book or sketchbook with cut pages and collage so that the viewer can go inside and travel through the pages like Alice falling down the rabbit hole or throught the looking glass. Linking to the collages I have already done, I may attempt to digitally collage images into different contexts like Annalies Strba, or combine collage and drawing which will allow me to work rapidly to explore compositional ideas.

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