Monday, 9 September 2013

Victoriana : The Art of Revival – Guildhall Art Gallery - Open Now until 8th December 2013

'Self Portrait' with kind permission of the artist
Piers Jamson (c)

An excellent evening at the Guildhall Art Gallery on Thursday for the Preview of this new exhibition. It was wonderful to see the place packed with an enthusiastic guests and the Twitterati out in force!

Initially slightly disconcerted to see my favourite London Gallery converted into a Victoriana ‘emporium’ of delight; my guiding ‘tools’ missing! The Grimshaw, The Silent Ceremony and the Fire Judge.  However, didn’t take long to get absorbed in the exciting displays which were fascinating just like a Victorian cabinet of curiosity but on a giant scale.

From the handsome ‘Self Portrait’ by Piers Jamson, in silhouette, not the tiny weeny things hung on ribbons, but life size, viewed from the stairs going down into the gallery – the artist was very pleased with the hang.  He makes a fine Victorian dandy.  See also his framed photograph ‘The Drawing Room’.

Also gaze across or lift up your eyes, to view the hanging displays - one with bees being ridden by tiny skeletal warriors! This encouraged a ‘buzz’ of conversation about bee keeping and how fascinating it is!

Then on to the taxidermy (armchair) in The Reimagined Parlour, not to everyone’s liking but the foxes looked beautiful and very snug. Stimulated a conversation about fur coats and how it was OK as long as they were second-hand or granny’s old fur stole.

Butterflies were also represented, fluttering down from the ceiling coming from a ‘chrysalis' in the form a ethereal pink dress. A Jane Eyre collection by Paula Rego some pictures associated with the story, others not, all unsettling and thought provoking.  Then Dorian Gray novel/play/film displayed as photographs with an interesting twist, drawn primarily from the 1945 Hollywood adaptation using restaged stills. You may recall how pale he was? This time he has a much darker complexion.

So we wound our way through the galleries, getting smaller and narrower (it’s not a big exhibition but it feels it - in a good way!) film and fantasy abounds, and do not forget to peek behind the black curtain, more butterflies but will play havoc with your vision and mind!

Oh there is also the steam gun and inventions taking inspiration from those clever Victorians. There is also the ‘Neo Victorian Alphabet’ and wireless and Time Travel. Fanciful tattoos are there as well.

Believe me there is something for EVERYONE at this extravaganza of an exhibition, even if you are not particularly fond of things Victorian, you will enjoy the ‘revivalist’ take on it. Also lots of emphasis on the Gothic.

My favourite piece, or second favourite, cannot make up my mind having met the artist of one in person, is Dress 09. A lazar cut full length dress, over a yellowing crackling silk, look closely at the pattern, it does seem to move and glower at you. Influenced by a Victorian short story the ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ a must read – see links for a 360 degree view of dress

and the story:

Do check out the Octomaids – woman-mullusc hybrids ‘that have crawled and slithered their way into the contemporary artistic imagination’.  A tiny version of the altered engraving.

There is not your usual catalogue to the exhibition but a lovely hard back book called ‘Victoriana A Miscellany’ – it has lots of interesting writings about the exhibits plus a ‘conversation’ with Sarah Waters.

Hats off and a loud hurrah to Sonia Solicari and her team  for this extraordinary exhibition.

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