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Cheeseplants — ubiquitous in 705 sittings rooms and frequently found within earshot of the ultimate cheesy singer, Engelbert Humperdink. And, if your childhood was anything like Nina Saunders, the cheeseplant would be strangely polished with milk by your mother.
Saunders’s work frequently plunders her past. A cheeseplant appears in her installation Forever, where it watches over a child's swing as it ceaselessly moves to Humperdink's crooning. Yet what could be seen as a bit of childhood revisited has a definite sense of menace: the swing bashes relentlessly into a wall. Childhood is turned into a no-exit nightmare, or as Saunders's says, 'a child is crashing into a grown-up’s world.’
In Welcome at Stills Gallery, Saunders shows alongside artists Emily Bates and Nicky Hoberman. Bates crafts outfits from human hair. Hoberman paints pictures of children who parade an unnerving sexual - or is it just adult? — knowingness. Together the work interrogates notions of domestic bliss, sexuality and pre-teen innocence.
In a new piece specially commissioned by Stills, Saunders has worked with classic Sanderson floral fabric. It is the stuff of countless suburban bedrooms and a thousand rural idyll fantasies. ’lt's English garden roses, highly idealised and pretty,’ says Saunders who has overpainted the fabric with oil paint so that one- time flower-bed trained and restrained roses are transformed into a riotous mass of vicious and thorny overgrowth. In front of the painted canvas, Saunders will place a Victorian chair upholstered in the same
Out Of The Closet: Emily Bates' Closet, made from organza and human hair
fabric. It blends in. 'There is a sense of claustrophobia,’ says the artist, ‘but also a sense of safety.’
Saunders frequently explores the territory of enclosure. A few years back she showed The Age Of Reason at London's Saatchi Gallery. A Chesterfield armchair upholstered in deep red leatherette, it was swamped by a massive, growth-like bulge. The archetypal symbol of the classy gentleman's club is deformed. A vast carbuncle sits on the symbolic face of male authority.
Saunders's work is about answering back as a means to fathoming out the past and the current balance of power. But asked if she will be polishing the leaves of her cheeseplant with milk at Stills, the answer is a big 'no'. (Susanna Beaumont)
22523 Welcome. Stills Gallery 622 6200, 5 Aug—25 Sep, Tue—Sat 70am—5pm, Sun noon-5pm Free
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76 THE LIST‘
Angel Face: John Stezaker's Angel, 1998
line Of people to risli: Just where it is angels come from and what they can
For his new series of images on show at the Portfolio Gallery, London-based i" -. only one in a long artist John Stezaker has taken
portraits from the pages of a defunct directory of child models. Using a combination of old and new technology — the mirror and the computer ~ he has produced spliced symmetrical images of children's faces. With their perfect balance and unnatural proportions, the children become weird messengers carrying news from elsewhere.
'The angel is an intermediary between the idealised world and our own world,‘ Stezaker explains. ’I'm interested in the way photographic images, which are real, can yield to the other dimen5ion.’
The altered images may appear sinister, but they’re also magical insights into our own guest for perfection as much as mirror images of our obsession With childhood . b ‘. innocence 'I’m not really sure about ~ ‘ my own thoughts about Childhood,
I'm not making a comment on that.
But there is something extraordinary
about looking into a child's face which
is terribly compelling.’ (MOira Jeffrey) john Stezaker Ange/s, Portfolio
Gallery (Venue 42) 220 7971. 70
Aug—4 Sep, Mon-Sat ' 10.30am-5 30pm. Free.
I I \ The shows guaranteed to deliver a visual sensation
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.. t" Joseph Beuys The lCVOlllll’W‘l ll‘,’ art maker who was always (Ul a sartorial dash —- he was iievei seen without his pork-pie hat is today conSidered an artworld hero. Here Beuys is celebrated in a show of drawmgs, photographs and works Joseph Beuys. National Gallery Of Modern Art (Vent/e (5(5) (524 6200, until 79 Sep, Mon—Sat 70am—5pm, Sun 77am—5pm, £2.50 ([7 50). Kiki Smith The famed New York artist whose papier mache sculptures of the human body survey the fragility of life show new Video work, drawuigs and sCulptures. Kiki Smith. Frwtmarket Gallery, 225 2383. until 77 50p, Mon—Sat llam- 6pm, Sun noon—5pm Free. Callum Innes Work by the artist of gently chilled, minimalist paintings who was shortlisted for the Turnei Prize a few years back. Cal/um Innes. Ing/eby Gallery, 556 444 7. Mon-Sat 70am—5pm. Free. John Stezaker Child beauties deformed by photographic manipulation — angelic faces transformed to Juvenile demons — in the photographs of Brit artist John Stezaker. See preview. John Stezaker. Portfolio Gallery (Venue 42) 220 7977 70 Aug-4 50p. Mon-Sat 70.30am—5 30pm Free Welcome The darker side of domestic bliss and lurking menace of childhood fun and games explored by artists Nicky Hoberman, Nina Saunders and Emily Bates See preView Welcome, Stills Gallery, 622 6200, 5 Aug-25 Sep, Tue-Sat 70am-5pm. Sun noon-5pm Free