A Spotlight on… Lila De Magalhaes

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“I had the pleasure of first meeting Lila De Magalhaes, when we both moved to Glasgow in 2004 to study at Glasgow School of Art and am delighted to still be her friend to date. It was this theme of friendship which drew me to a series of particular works, Room mates and Rain Control, both of which have toured throughout Tall Tales, alongside a host of 17 other artists’ work companions.

Room mates consists of two mermaids made out of clay, and resembling Lila and her flat-mate, sit together in a transient state, in a plastic bag filled with water. The mermaids themselves are beautifully detailed but still with a sense of freedom to their clay finish. The mermaid tails are glossy and a rich shade of turquoise you would expect to see at the bottom of the sea, but their bodies and flowing hair remain in their exposed natural clay state. The mixture of finish on the clay, reminds me of the mermaids own hybrid nature, sitting somewhere between human and animal.

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Once encased within the large plastic bag of water however, the mermaids become something completely different; an object of curiosity. The audience are invited to take a closer look into this peculiar bulbus bag of water, discovering small details of the sculpture here and there, spotting signs of a fish scaled tail or flowing hair. Having the responsibility of setting the mermaids in place before submerging them within water at each exhibition venue, left me with a close attachment to the mermaids, perhaps recognising the familiarity of my friend, more and more each time I went to install them at a new venue. (Not to mention the rather uncanny  international Skype phone calls between myself and Lila consisting of leaking bags, settling mermaids and  mermaids resting in Sigmund Freud’s bath alongside myself and assistant Curator Charlie Booth!)

Lila De Magalhaes’s other work Rain Control, which as already mentioned sits alongside an accompanying video work to Room mates, animates these mermaid figures through an everyday yet uncanny scenario – played out by non other than Lila and her flat mate. I had to laugh a little to myself whilst I watched over the video for the last time at our last venue Glasgow Women’s Library. The scene begins with Lila and her flat mate trying to Skype call, curiously pondering what happened to the mermaids, whilst the mermaids seem to be taking themselves for a swim through the car wash. For a moment It reminded me of the various and often humourous phone calls between myself and Lila over the intricacies and absurdities of the clay mermaids install. Somehow I felt like I had become a hidden part of the work, another imaginary mermaid.

All of Lila De Magalhaes’s work searches to perch right on the unsteady cusp between desire and abject, instinct and composure, animal and human. From video, soap, ink, or a performance with a Saint Bernard dog, her practice varies greatly in form but regardless of medium successfully amuses, bemuses and in my own personal case, warms the viewer’s heart.”

Liz Wewiora
Tall Tales Co-Curator

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A spotlight on… Rachel Goodyear

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With all 3 London venues now open we asked Assistant Curator, Charlie Booth, to take some time out of her Tall Tales Rochdale prep, and take some time to respond to one of our programmed artists for our April ‘Spotlight On’. This month Charlie chose to delve into the work of Rachel Goodyear, and share her views on the artist’s work.

“Hanging on the cream coloured walls of the staircase in the Freud Museum are two of Rachel Goodyear’s drawings, Thought Spill (2013) and Molehills (2012). Two pieces that whilst assisting the installation of the Tall Tales exhibition I thoroughly enjoyed discovering and learning about.

Molehills, large in scale, dominate the central staircase and can be viewed from multiple heights. Characteristic of Goodyear’s illustrations, the work is simultaneously empowering and delicate, disturbing and playful, beautiful and ugly. In Molehills a gang of female figures appear, standing semi-nude atop a mound of earth in sexual lingerie. In this piece Rachel talks about the overtly sexual absurdity of ritual and how we communicate that with one another, as the power play and purpose of the characters in this work is left tenaciously ambiguous.

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On the opposite wall hangs Goodyear’s amalgamation of intricate sketches, which make up Thought Spill. During the panel discussion on April 16th, Rachel described the work as ‘fragments not drawings’, explaining that cumulatively they represent her most raw piece of work. Alluding to a private, erratic activity of noting down ideas before they fade away. The way she works is a mixture of observations over heard or read about, a constant gathering and collating of information, which is clearly demonstrated in the sheer mass of frames.

Whilst condition checking each of the 34 frames I enjoyed the nature of unwrapping each one and gradually studying the illustration, (a privilege of the job) before placing them in their specific place in the cluster. One or two stick in my head more than others and during the private view I noticed our guests doing a similar thing. Each noting down their ‘favourite’, as if there is something in the Thought Spill that speaks clearly to the individual viewer. Mine contained a single blindfolded lady who appears to be being led by a bird in flight. To the left of the figure is written the word ‘North’. My interpretation of a person having blind faith that their choices in life are right, that there are powers working to help guide you to your destination and the place you call home.

Although each drawing could be viewed as a piece in its own right, when hung in their entirety in the dense cluster of wooden frames, they have the ability to evoke a powerful reaction; an insight in to the artists thought processes. Rachel explains that this work includes many of the themes and issues present within her other work; penetration, oozing and fear to name but a few. Her work never has a clear linear narrative but when viewed together in this dense cluster, the images begin to take on new meaning when they are positioned in relation to one another.

What has stuck in my mind more than anything during the panel discussion was a comment from Rachel that as an artist she feels a strong sense of responsibility to her audience. Explaining that after work has been created and launched out in to the world it is then open for interpretation.

Other work by Rachel Goodyear included in the Tall Tales exhibition includes A Humming in the Ear (2012) and Itchy Arms (2009). Rachel Goodyear’s work will feature in Tall Tales exhibition at the Freud Museum until the 29th May 2016 where it will then travel to Touchstones Rochdale and the Glasgow Women’s Library later in the year.”

Charlie Booth, April 2016

Artworks C. Artist Rachel Goodyear, Images C. Tall Tales 2016