Vulnerability of youth from a female perspective in Bittersweet at St. Art Gallery in Twickenham

By Kirstie Brewer | 11 June 2010
A photo of a grey gothic painting of a young girl looking somber

Exhibition: Bittersweet: An Exploration of Innocence, St. Art Gallery, Twickenham, June 16 – 20 2010

St. Art's latest offering is a highly emotive series of works by female artists Bobbie Russon and Lisa Snook.

Bittersweet is a sensitive and brooding look at the transition from childhood to adulthood from a distinctly female perspective.

"The works evoke a very simple, nerve tingling sensation," explains Bittersweet curator Ingrid Hinton.

"They are richly emotional and layered with texture to reveal the darker side of being a woman and a girl."

A photo of a white dress on green leaves

Lisa Snook's works are highly emotive

Bobbie Russon's paintings create a sense that the path from childhood to adulthood can be a time of loss, awkward self-awareness and developing sexuality.

"It is a time when we possibly have a first glimpse of the darker side of ourselves," she says.

"We can feel alone for the first time, our bond with the people that have cared for us rejected in our striving for independence, yet at the same time contradicted by the needy child still within."

Russon feels her excruciating shyness as a child and the loneliness she often felt emerges through her paintings. "My work comes from a deep, dark, quiet place in me and hopefully speaks to that place in others," she says.

A picture of a gothic painting of a young girl

Bobbie Russon's paintings chart the awkward path between innocence and adulthood

Notable highlights include, Do You Like My Baby?, a cleverly ambiguous painting which powerfully articulates society’s growing fears about the loss of childhood innocence.

Lisa Snook takes a more surreal, mature approach with a beguiling installation, pieces and sculpture, using viscerally suggestive pieces to bring the evocative nature of fairytales into contemporary life.

"My work is about femininity," she explains. "The pieces I make aim to subvert preconceived notions of femininity allowing an expression of deep-rooted emotions relating to fear, desire and death."

A photo of a close up detail of a piece of white fabric with the words I Miss You added in black material

Lisa Snook, I Want to be Clothed

In addition to her haunting visual work, Snook has penned modern fairytales which are available as audio pieces.

"This extremely female genre of story telling has become a perfect vehicle for me to speak of childhood trauma, loss and memory," she says.

"Memory is the trigger of emotion and using fairy tale motifs of enchantment, changeling and a dislocation from the real or material world alleviates the traumatic. It severs from the emotional and guides the story into a surreal world."

Both artists portray vulnerability in striking ways and challenge our preconceptions of the nostalgia surrounding childhood. They expose its inherently ambiguous, complex nature, making this a powerfully affecting exhibition.

St.Art, 13 Broadway Avenue, St Margarets, Twickenham. Open 10.30am-3pm. For more information visit St.Art's website

Visit Kirstie Brewer's blog or follow her on Twitter.

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