home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects | gazetteer | linksarchive | forum


House of Fairy Tales

Millennium, St Ives      5/3/10-28/3/10




House of Fairy Tales (HOFT) is the brain-child of Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis. It started at Port Eliot Festival in East Cornwall as an exercise in making child-oriented art and art events, and as the name suggests, it took the genre of the fairy tale as its touchstone and inspiration. Its aesthetic, comprising fantasy, imagination and narrative, and a child's sense of wonder is very much evident in this energetic show at Millennium, St Ives jointly curated by Alice Herrick and Joe Clarke.

Over three floors, more than 100 works by artists who had already worked with HOFT are mixed with artists associated with Millennium. The ground floor (pictures above: top and middle) is mainly given over to the HOFT print portfolio. This is a collection of 22 prints, which includes captivating images of fairies by Matt Collishaw and ex-ruralist Peter Blake, a photograph of the Mari Lwyd 'obby 'oss from South Wales by Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, and an engaging work based on a recollection from childhood by Bob and Roberta Smith. Amongst others, Spartacus Chetwynd, Fiona Banner, Gavin Turk, and Dexter Dalwood - currently showing at Tate St Ives - are also represented, and the prints share the space with elegant sculptures by Hadrian Pigott and Alastair Mackie.

Works clustered around the narrow staircase include a tiny image of John and Yoko made in tiny beads by Jessica Voorsanger. On the first floor, a large photograph by Annabel Elgar of a spooky forest cabin dominates, together with sculptures by Paul Chaney and Alex Smirnoff (image above bottom). 'Cabinet of Natural Curiosities' takes the form of a tactile book-cum-object by Ian Dawson, installed at a height suitable for children to enjoy. The adjacent space includes two photographs by David Spero of contemporary off-grid dwellings in Devon and Wales. Politics, idealism and fantasy come together in these powerful works to prove that truth is stranger, and even more magical, than fiction.



On the top floor things get yet more fantasmagoric. Modest and precise, sadistic and disturbing, drawings by EC Woodard (above top) and Raisa Viekkola borrow influence from illustrations in Victorian children's books. Between them are poetic works by Oliver Clegg (above middle), using embroidered phrases written in the Cornish language. Cornwall is also referenced in paintings in the opposite corner by Jimp. Sculptures by William Fontaine, Tim Shaw, Rupert White and Rob Goodwin occupy the centre of the room. Goodwin's work, 'The Heir Apparent' (above bottom) which takes the form of a theatrical leather head-piece with tusks, is particularly evocative, whilst hidden behind it on the floor is a furry pelt called Moth-fur by Paul Hazelton, who also contributes three other works to the show.

HOFT, much like the preceding Tate's Dark Monarch, is an opportunity to think afresh about the art-context of St Ives, which for so long has engendered a very particular and rather narrow aesthetic. With its strong affiliation to Cornwall, HOFT provides some of the other missing pieces of the jigsaw, and in doing so suggests a range of new possibilities, opportunities and directions.

RW 13/3/10