Julie Heffernan, Haruko Maeda, Dolly Thompsett

Dolly Thompsett
selected works

For the first instalment of their summer exhibition, All Visual Arts bring together three international painters, Julie Heffernan, Haruko Maeda and Dolly Thompsett; whose works draw on a rich body of myth, fable and art history to evoke the spirit of Magical Realism.

The principle characteristics of Magical Realism are political critique, hybridity and collective consciousness; ideas shared by each of the artists exhibited in strikingly different ways. Fantastical elements are infused with the everyday to represent a heightened sense of reality. Heffernan is concerned with the sense of self as a political agenda; Maeda questions the very notion of existence by representing a hybrid of life and death, while Thompsett represents the collective consciousness by suffusing landscapes with states of human emotion.

Julie Heffernan's lush self-portraiture references art historical periods from the Baroque to the Renaissance, presenting a sensual interior narrative, a self-allegory whose half- hidden political agenda is the literal background of the paintings. Her work posits metamorphosis as a transformative process, describing her painting as "a hybrid of genres and styles, mixing allegory, portraiture, history painting, and still life, while in title they are all presented as self-portraits.” The dark, Grimm’s fairy tale-like undercurrent to her work transforms her aristocratic, operatic portraits into a contemporary vanitas or Memento Mori, acting as a seductive visual metaphor for our own materiality.

Haruko Maeda combines the animistic traditions of her homeland with the Roman Catholic faith, deeply rooted in Austrian culture and history.  Being privy to both of these belief systems enabled the artist to raise universal questions about existence; life and death are not simply polarised, but can be entwined.   In Heart Beat of the Death- Elizabeth I, Maeda depicts the skeleton of the queen, her bones glistening like the relic of a saint. The concept of reliquary opposes the materiality of death with the essence of the living, imbuing remains with a powerful reverence that elides death’s finality. Searching for this state of impossible order, Maeda explains “Like a dead body dressed in gleaming stones, I am looking for the dynamics of my artistic work, where beauty and ugliness, life and death co exist in contradiction”

Dolly Thompsett uses the painterly language typically associated with the 19th century sublime, constructing atmospheric landscapes that reflect human emotional states. Thompsett’s subjects are drawn from the mundane and often macabre reality of contemporary life, typically originating from documentary photographs: scenes of open cast mining, shipwrecks and overseas combat missions. Here we see two works; Dawn, in which asoldier leans against wall of entrails and Life, featuring bluebirds and exploding figures. The underlying theme is that of ordinary people overcome by extraordinary events, hovering somewhere between disaster and transcendence, between watery depths and heavenly heights.

Today, the term ‘Magical Realism’ is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous, described as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something 'too strange to believe'". This strangeness and painstaking detail draws a compelling parallel between the artists, drawing out the dark narratives woven throughout our everyday experience.

For all press enquiries please contact Camilla Cole
Phone: 0207 209 5670
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Editor’s notes:
The exhibition has been conceived and curated by All Visual Arts Directors Joe La Placa and Mark Sanders

Public Exhibition:
21st June – 17th August 2013 10 – 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Monday by appointment only.