December 12, 2010

one brown box

Unlike the way it always seems to happen in fairy tales, I was not heading off to market to sell the family cow when I stumbled onto good fortune the other day, but walking home from a K Rd art gallery. Feeling a bit disjunctive in the bright sun after emerging from the cool shadows of the Michael Lett Gallery where I had been watching four green-hued videos involving night, dark water and saturation at Campbell Patterson’s “Orewa” show, I went right past an open doorway beyond which stood a big empty brown box before the feeling of intrigue a big empty brown box still manages to inspire in me, even if with a bit of a delay compared to once upon a time, made me stop, turn around, go back and peer inside.

The open door was that of the objectspace gallery and the big brown box was part of an exhibition by Bronwyn Lloyd and Karl Chitham called “one brown box”, all about storybooks and fairy tales.

Princess and the pea bedEveryone whose heart stirs at the thought of fairy tales should go see this marvellous exhibition. Starting from the plainest structure with the most unlimited imaginative potential, the brown box, “one brown box” illustrates five classic fairy tales with sculptures and models made entirely from boxes and paper, such as a tiny canopy bed made by Bronwen Lloyd with a real pea (I asked Bronwen) on the pillow, an entire castle for the Steadfast Tin Soldier and, most amazing of all, Karl Chitham’s “King’s Tower” from the “Twelve Dancing Princesses”, which is a tower and a King’s face, too, perched high on a wall for all the world like a cardboard version of a river god grotesque in one of those mannerist stone grottoes in the gardens of old Italian villas.
There are also fairy tales retold from the point of view of minor characters (eg "Snow White: The Mirror’s Story”), an I Spy Cabinet and a Cabinet of Curiosities, and a wonderful display of Jack Ross’s collection of fairy tale books, with one of the nicest signs I have ever seen in an art show letting you know that you are welcome to pick them up and look at them, along with a written piece by Jack called “A Short History of Fairytales”.

I was happy to see Jack mention Italo Calvino’s book of traditional Italian fairy tales, which I was given as a child and read many times over, with no knowledge of Calvino’s literary status but a keen appreciation for their whimsy -- I remember chick peas which turned into children -- and for the figs, dates and pomegranates with which the stories were festooned, so … southern compared to those tales with little match girls freezing to death or bears bursting into houses to get out of the torment of snow.

Jack’s piece is reprinted in the brown paper-covered exhibition ‘catalogue’, which makes it possible for me to end with this wonderful quote from Dr. Johnson with which Jack introduces it:

“Memory once interrupted is not to be recalled. Written learning is a fixed luminary, which, after the cloud that had hidden it has passed away, is again bright in its proper station. Tradition is but a meteor, which if once it falls, cannot be rekindled.”

-- Dr. Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

The show is open until December 18th, at object space, 8 Ponsonby Road.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30
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