Venture into the woods with ‘Fairy Tales’ – QAGOMA Blog

Across a magical threshold and beyond the everyday, ‘Fairy Tales’ is this summer’s enchanting exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane with more than 100 works presented across the entire ground floor from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024. ‘Fairy Tales’ will re-tell the enduring folk stories of your childhood through the lens of contemporary artists, designers, and filmmakers.

Del Kathryn Barton (artist, director), Australia b.1973 / Brendan Fletcher (director), Australia / The Nightingale and the Rose (still) 2015 / Single-channel video: 14 minutes, colour, sound / Animators: Chris Breeze, Simon Bronson, David Edwards, Liz Ellis, Richard Swan / Music: Sarah Blasko / Gift of Del Kathryn Barton through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2022. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Del Kathryn Barton / Image courtesy: The artist and RoslynOxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Watch your favourite movies on the big screen in the accompanying film program ‘Fairy Tales: Truth, Power and Enchantment’ featuring over 40 films at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA, and take home the major publication Fairy Tales in Art and Film that explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

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Production still from The Company of Wolves 1984 / Director: Neil Jordan / Image courtesy: Park Circus/ITV Studios / Photograph: Chris Brown/Stephen Wooley

Bringing together artists, film makers and designers — the exhibition includes works encompassing sculpture, installation, painting, photography, printmaking, paper cuts, animation, video art, film, props and costumes — all celebrating a much-loved genre of storytelling, and even the hidden realm of augmented reality.

Timothy Horn, Australia/United States b.1964 / Glass slipper (ugly blister) 2001 / Lead crystal, nickel-plated bronze, easter egg foil, silicon / 51.0 x 72.0 x 33.0cm / Purchased 2002 / Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra / © Timothy Horn

Fairy Tales’ is an adventure that will inspire, and delight as it reminds us how timeworn narratives can be remixed and updated to both surprise and disconcert audiences. Explore the classic archetypes of powerful witches, magical beasts, and spirited princesses, and look at how artists have unravelled the iconic visual motifs of the genre, from stories of children coming of age and ageing, the shifting role of gender and otherness, tales of bravery and justice, loyalty and humility, cunning and aspiration, bringing together well-known visual motifs of woods and trees, mirrors and blood, impossible shoes and clothing for royalty, castles and coaches, and at least one pumpkin.

Timothy Horn, Australia/United States b.1964 / Mother-load 2008 / Crystalised rock sugar, plywood, steel / 292.6 x 182.9 x 170.7cm / Courtesy: The artist / Image courtesy: Jason Schmidt / New York Times / Photographer: Jason Schmidt

The exhibition’s first chapter, ‘Into the Woods’, dramatically explores metamorphosis, unpredictability, and danger. Corupira 2023, a major new commission by Brazilian sculptor Henrique Oliviera, envelops the visitor in a twisted forest fashioned from found tree branches, plywood, and strips of salvaged timber.

Other works in the first chapter investigating classic tales and reinterpretations include Gustave Doré’s Little Red Riding Hood c.1862 (illustrated), Kiki Smith’s wolfish self-portrait Born 2022, Anish Kapoor’s dual concave mirror Red and Black Mist Magenta 2018, Jana Sterbak’s glass coffin Inside 1990, Trulee Hall’s Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023, a gown from Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête 1946; reproductions of the Sky, Sun and Moon dresses worn by Catherine Deneuve in Jacques Demy’s film Peau d’Âne 1970, and Abdul Abdullah’s haunting photographic series Coming to Terms 2015.

Gustave Doré, France 1832-83 / Little Red Riding Hood c.1862 / Oil on canvas / 65.3 × 81.7cm / Gift of Mrs S. Horne, 1962 / Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Drawing on the childhood imagination, the second chapter, ‘Through the Looking Glass’, is filled with puppets, toys, clocks, twirling mushrooms, and flying houses. It features immersive, otherworldly gardens populated with unusual creatures and enhanced by augmented reality.

Highlights include Maurice Sendak’s iconic images from his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are and costumes by the Jim Henson Creature Shop for the 2009 film adaptation; the thirteen-hour clock, glass orbs and a costume worn by David Bowie in Henson’s Labyrinth 1986; Carsten Höller’s interactive sculpture Flying Mushrooms 2015; and Enchanted Field 2023, a major installation by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini that opens a magical pathway beneath a canopy of 3000 genetically modified blooms.

Polixeni Papapetrou, Australia 1960-2018 / I’m not myself you see 2004 / Type C Photograph / 105 x 105cm / Gift of Robert Nelson through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2023 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Polixeni Papapetrou/Copyright Agency

The final chapter of the exhibition ‘Ever After’ celebrates the myriad ways that love and relationships plays out in fairy tales, with a focus on the tropes of marriage in ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’. Along with incredible costumes designed by Eiko Ishioka for the 2012 film Mirror Mirror (illustrated) and Timothy Horn’s Mother-load 2008 (illustrated), a sumptuously embellished stagecoach created from crystalised rock sugar, this chapter includes Ron Mueck’s sculpture Pinocchio 1996, Henri Matisse’s stunning ballet costume Costume for a mourner c.1920, and Del Kathryn Barton and Brendan Fletcher’s fantastic animation The Nightingale and the Rose 2015 (illustrated).

‘Fairy Tales’ is an exhibition sure to delight young and old, and definitely not to be missed these summer holidays.

Tarsem Singh (director), India/United States b.1961 / Eiko Ishioka (designer), Japan 1938–2012 / ‘Green dress’ costume from Mirror Mirror 2012 / Silk, synthetic taffeta, nylon netting, plastic / © 2012 UV RML NL Assets LLC. / Photograph: Jan Thijs
Promotional image from Mirror Mirror 2012 showing ‘Yellow dress with hood’ worn by Lily Collins as ‘Princess Snow’ / Director: Tarsem Singh / © 2012 UV RML NL Assets LLC. / Photograph: Jan Thijs


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