Paper worlds and sinister fairies…

Visits to art galleries can go two ways. Either the paintings are so mind-numbingly DULL that you wander around in a zombied daze, bump into some grumpy curator and then shuffle off remembering absolutely nothing of what you’ve seen. Or… you hit the jackpot and the gallery is full of paintings brimming with stories, characters and magic.

 

Just like Byron Burgers is the best hunting ground out there for bacon avocado burgers, so art galleries are the prime hunting ground for stories. It’s like seeing a small section of someone’s imagination locked inside a frame – and you get to do whatever you like with it. Unless the painting looks like this, of course, (which sold for $1.6 million), in which case you could write a very boring story about an overweight brussel sprout.

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Green White by Ellsworth Kelly

Last week moontrug popped into The Guildhall Gallery, London, to see The Victoriana exhibition. Featuring graphic design, film, photography, ceramics, taxidermy (stuffed animals), furniture, textiles and fine art, the show explored work inspired by the 19th century and created over the last 20 years, highlighting the ongoing influence of the Victorian age. Inside I found some of the best story ideas I’ve seen in art galleries yet. There was Su Blackwell’s While You Were Sleeping dress, inspired by a Burmese legend about the soul butterfly. It is believed that a sleeping person’s soul takes the shape of a butterfly and flies abroad while its owner is asleep, searching for the souls of other persons and animals and returning when the owner awakes. Maybe that’s where David Almond got his inspiration from for Astral Travelling in My Name is Mina

Su Blackwell dress

After seeing Su Blackwell’s butterflies I went home and researched her further. Few things are as magical as seeing a book come alive before you – and this is exactly what Blackwell does. Using her knowledge of fairytales and folklore, Blackwell uses a scalpel to cut figures, animals, houses and trees out of actual books. Click here for a sneak peek. Think Wild Swans, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Little Red Riding Hood, Pandora’s Box. Suddenly my moontruggy head is spinning with ideas: of creatures that break free from books and settle in our world, of houses made of paper that crumble if its inhabitants leave, of children with paper hearts who burn when shown love. Maybe Cornelia Funke (author of Inkheartchanced across Blackwell, too – that would explain why Silvertongue reads so many characters out of books and into his and Meggie’s world. Excitingly, Su Blackwell has teamed up with author Wendy Jones to bring us a gorgeous book in time for Christmas: A Fairytale Princess: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest. Click here to buy on amazon.

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The second Guildhall Gallery artist whose work was stirring with magic (albeit a more sinister, darker magic) was Tessa Farmer – and her malignant fairies. Forget Tinkerbell and the Fairy Godmother… Farmer brings us a deeply unsettling picture of fairies – of sprites that meddle with human affairs, of imps who wreak havoc wherever they go – just like the fairies Michelle Harrison creates in her brilliant 13 Treasures series. Harrison’s fairies are deceitful, malicious and even deadly – and it’s up to Red and Tanya to fight their way past them. Click here for Harrison’s list of the best ‘BAD’ fairies. But Farmer’s fairies are creepy right down to the way they’re made. Constructed from bits of organic material, such as roots, leaves, and dead insects, Farmer creates a nightmarish flock of fairies who harness mayflies, battle honey bees and attack spindly spiders…

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What started as a moontruggy jaunt down to an art gallery has now become a giant spider diagram of malevolent fairies, warring bees, paper forests and woven words. A story is just beginning. So if you’ve got a story inside you, check out moontrug’s Story Hunting tips – or nip down to your local art gallery and get inspired. You never know what’s waiting for you there…

 

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