Amelia Critchlow reworks traditional stories, myths and fairytales from a feminine perspective in New Works, an exhibition of mixed-media painting and photography at The Cork Street Gallery, London. Exploring the cultural legacy of fairy and folk tales in contemporary life, Critchlow relocates found images of women into surreal painted landscapes. In Little Red (2011), a fashion model in crimson, overpainted attire steps out in a vast, pale, abstracted landscape of sketched pathways and ink blots. By removing the heroine from her traditional period, setting, and fictional role, the artist reconfigures a deeply held symbol of femininity for a set of new readings and understandings. These oil, or acrylic, montages build upon prior experiments with collaged textiles, embroidery and household paint.
Taking cues from Paula Rego’s painterly redrafting of conventional fables and myths, Critchlow carefully blends collective imagination and individual experience. In doing so, she aims to grasp and to challenge, or protest – the long established, hidden stories that structure our social positions. A postgraduate researcher at Wimbledon College of Art, Critchlow’s photographic work continues these themes, while engaging with performance, theatricality and the complex artist-relationship.
Works such as Amoria (2011) permit women to tell their own stories in the language of fairytale. Critchlow photographed each of them with self-selected costume and pose amidst primal forest surroundings, championing personal agency as a way to create alternative narratives. Most recently, for example in the photographed “physical collage” Liberty’s Room (2011), she usedinstalled props against a handpainted backdrop to suggest a powerful personal presence without the human figure. By hand-sewing the set-up’s central motif–a “red riding hood” cloak– Critchlow’s physical engagementwith her theoretical and political concerns is revealed.
She shares a conceptual and material concern with the “embodied” experience of femininity with Wangechi Mutu, an artist who defines “churning connection and disconnection with your body” as a visceral, and vital, artistic principle. According to Sublime Magazine Critchlow’s layered works “place women in a new arena with new stories to be told… to create a future that celebrates women and their abilities in a more positive way.”
Commissioned by Amelia Critchlow, 2011
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