Romany Gypsy Delaine Le Bas to recreate containment compounds in gallery exhibition

By Ben Miller | 25 April 2014

Romany Gypsy history - and the prospects of "outsider" groups - are faced head-on by an exhibition and installation from a Sussex artist

A photo of a woman sitting inside a caravan surrounded by colourful artworks
© Amelia Shepherd
Delaine Le Bas grew up hearing her grandmother and great uncles tell stories of magic lantern shows in the New Forest. A large family, these English Romany Gypsies made the south of England their home hundreds of years ago, with Le Bas going on to graduate from St Martins and the West Sussex College of Art and Design. She is currently based in Worthing, where she was born.

Ignoring stereotypes surrounding marginalised artists, Le Bas has used two glass and metal lanterns, hand-made in the New Forest and drawn from the collection at Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, as a central metaphor and catalyst for this new body of work, installed at Phoenix as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.

A photo of a woman looking at anti-gypsy newspaper articles inside a caravan
© Amelia Shepherd
“As a Romany, my viewpoint has always been that of the outsider,” admits LeBas, who will also recreate and occupy her own version of the “compounds” – makeshift structures used to contain Gypsy families by the government during the early 20th century – within the gallery space.

“This position of the 'other' is reflected in the materials and messages within my work.

“We live in a culture of mixed values and garbled messages.

“My works are crafted from the disregarded and disparate objects of the car boot sale and the charity shop – a bricollage of materials, employing the materials of everyday, all formed together in a manner that allows them to be precious yet reclaimed.”

Le Bas has taken part in exhibitions from Berlin to Baltimore. But there’s an obvious timeliness to her latest work, which is partly a response to the media furore around Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants seen domestically at the start of this year, as well as looking further back to the attitude of authorities towards Gypsies in an era when Nazism horrified Europe.

“The content of the exhibition is provocative and uncomfortable,” says Karin Mori, the Artistic Programme Manager at the gallery.

“It addresses current events and issues around exclusion, ethnic identity and representation.

“Delaine and her extended family have been affected by aspects of a history which is not widely known and which has disturbing implications for contemporary citizens of Europe.

“She has a raw, sometimes awkward or angry, but always powerful and direct voice which will resonate with people from many different walks of life.”

  • Local Name: Unknown...Gypsies? is at Phoenix Brighton from April 26 – June 15 2014. Delaine Le Bas will take part in a Museums at Night event, , on May 15 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of a small puppet made of various textiles hanging from the roof of a caravan
© Amelia Shepherd
A photo of a framed photo of a woman and various textiles installed inside a caravan
© Amelia Shepherd
A photo of a series of small transparent pots next to a mirror inside a caravan
© Amelia Shepherd
A photo of a woman looking outside of the window of a caravan
© Amelia Shepherd
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