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Exhibition: English Dreamtime: Ben Walker, Victoria Lane and Mandy Hudson
12th October 2018
Words by Victoria Lane
“The Myth is the dream of the people” – Claude Levi Strauss
Memory is the translation of fragments through lenses both real and imagined. England is a land scarred by its past; invasions, civil war, the disfiguring of the earth by mines and oil rigs – this proliferation of events, cultures and ideas are reimagined again and again until every rock and stone is converted and given new meaning. The artists in this exhibition create works inspired by the liminal, lingering traces of these events. England is haunted by ghosts neither present nor completely absent, neither dead nor alive. The enduring snippets of themes, images, rituals and events and emotions have re-emerged through the mist and have shaken loose the linear procession of time and entered the Dreamtime. We wish to present three different translations of the wyrd through the unreliable lens of memory.
There is an undercurrent of unquiet in the English countryside. The chocolate box Arcadia of rural England is a false narrative and the reverie would shatter if it were to be examined more closely. This narrow threshold hides the discord of the ancient pagan rural and the discontent of the displaced working class. Village mothers allow their children to dance around the phallic fertility symbol of the Maypole and elemental sacrificial gods are still paraded through high streets during dreary bank holidays. To city dwellers, England’s own culture had become strange and
alien – or perhaps it was never that familiar at all.
In the age of documentation, where images and symbols are not allowed to decay or be forgotten, it can be easy to overlook that memories are built on lies. They are ephemeral, slippery things can be altered by emotion, suggestion and can even be completely fabricated. We wish to present works of time out of joint, the slippage between reality and the Dreamtime of memory; the English Dreamtime.
Ben Walker’s paintings offer a glimpse at a misremembered or imagined past, existing on the edges of memory and nostalgia. He is particularly inspired by the portrayal of the rural in 1970s/80s televised media that presented landscapes that were imbued with a strange, otherworldly quality that seemed odd or unsettling for broadcasts aimed at children. Different ideas of folklore, the unknown, the wyrd, science fiction or a sense of the supernatural, are meshed together. Intertwined in this is the loss of childhood innocence and the death of bygone utopian ideals. Ben Walker was born in Cheshire and lives and works in Kent. He studied at Sheffield Hallam University and Wimbledon School of Art. He has exhibited widely, including at Transition Gallery and Charlie Smith London, and in the Marmite Prize, and in 2012 won the Jack Goldsmith Painting Prize.
Inspired in equal amounts by the recalled terror of otherworldly 1970s public information films, English Folklore, Mark Fisher’s writings on Hauntology and the nostalgic lingering menace of the countryside, Victoria Lane wishes to display Arcadian disquiet as a complex tapestry, the Eternal Return of the Same. Through weaving and interlacing of themes and symbols, disorientating imagery, copied until only providing a ghost of the original image, her work provides less of a clear narrative and more an abstract portrait of a landscape, through the bleeding of folkloric tradition and a nostalgia for a fabricated image of the past. Victoria Lane was born in Birmingham and lives and works in London. She is a multi disciplinary artist and writer with a focus on folkloric and anthropological archetypes. She studied at Birmingham School of Art and has recently graduated Central Saint Martins. She writes for the blog, Temporal Translations and has contributed work to Concrete Burns (London, 2016), Dis/Cord (2017), S.H.E (2017) and BABY Zine (2018).
At a more interior level, Mandy Hudson‘s paintings present shadowy, depopulated spaces inhabited only by flowers. They hint towards an uncanny absence of people, perhaps the last houseplants growing over the remnant of a collapsed society; a surprisingly common theme in hauntology works and in the popular media of the 1970s and early 1980s. Hudson’s interest is in “half glimpsed things and accidental arrangements” which highlights the serendipity of a post-societal collapse. They hint towards a Threads-like domesticity, an assumed continuation of life after we have been wiped away. It is the calmness that makes the images so eerie as, through that calmness, lies a quiet acceptance. Mandy Hudson lives and works in London. She studied at Maidstone College of Art and has exhibited in group exhibitions in the UK and internationally; These include; The Marmite Painting Prize 2016; MK Calling, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes; New Foragers, Collyer Bristow, London; Creekside Open, APT, London; Souvenirs, Fieldgate at Angus Hughes, London; ArtSway Open 2010 and One day, Gallery Corridor, Reykjavik. She was included in Contemporary Art Society’s ART futures 2007 held at Bloomberg SPACE, London.