Kerry Darlington: The Princess and the Pea
After weeks of tantalising glimpses: Kerry Darlington's incredible Unique Edition is revealed at last: and it's a Hans Christian Andersen classic!
Kerry Darlington's Literary Inspirations
Kerry Darlington has forged an intrinsic artistic relationship with certain authors, whose stories have had such presence in her life from childhood it's hard to overstate their importance as influences in her life. Followers of Darlington’s work will be familiar with her contributions to the culture created by Lewis Carroll and his iconic books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Neverland and Enid Blyton’s beloved Magic Faraway Tree. Perhaps the most complex dynamic is that of Darlington and Hans Christen Andersen, whose Nordic fused folklore tales are so often referenced within the visual catalogue that they are entwined tightly to the artist’s unique genre. The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen are two such previous works where Anderson’s female heroines have been re-made for modern times by Darlington’s brush. Evocative yet thoughtful, each presents a character of spirit placed in the depths of the oceans and up in the heavens, where stories are not bound by the laws of science.
Wyecliffe's Annual Darlington Event
On Wednesday 1st November 2017 as part of Wyecliffe Galleries definitive annual exhibition, Darlington’s ambition will finally be debuted. The Princess and Pea has always been on the artist’s mind; a single page of literature crafted by Anderson in 1835, later illustrated by Edmund Dulac, has frequently featured in the absent-minded pencil drawings littering Darlington’s sketch books. The thought of a young lady whose royalty was tested through sensitivity is a theme tempting for an artist who cut her teeth not following fashion or trend but steadfastly committing to her own identity
Having committed much time to building the complex layers of narrative in the beautiful chapters of Carroll and Barrie, the artist has lavished months on this standalone painting in homage to Hans Christen Anderson. Perhaps liberated by commercial success, the artist is now in a position of strength to take risks on lesser known tales. Brave enough to embark upon pieces decided upon by sheer love of painting, the Princess and the Pea is the centrepiece to an exhibition which promises to be her most honest. Shunning gimmicks, the triple spaced gallery and additional vast studio space at Wyecliffe Galleries will be filled with over 200 of her most stunning works. Staged as her own working studio the gallery will be filled with her paint splattered brushes and works in progress, showing the ethic and authentic love behind the vast catalogue of fine art on display.
The original ‘Pea’ masterpiece painting (as no doubt it will become affectionally known by collectors in the future) will be supported by the first view of the unique limited editions. Darlington has not been tempted to overwhelm the editions, choosing to keep the three-dimensional elements to clean lines and subtle raising allowing the vast intricate detail of her paint work to arrest the eye. Continuing a new idea of themed signature scrolls, Darlington signs her name in gold over a signed book, upon which a lone pea sits. The dimensions of the piece are indeed a beautiful, perfect mirror image to Alice Down the Rabbit Hole – the first piece which could rightfully be called it’s proper matching pair.
Princess and the Pea - In Kerry Darlington's World
A myriad of colour, atop some 20 mattresses the Princess poses uncomfortably and concerned having suffered a poor night’s sleep caused by the ill-placed pea below. Compositionally very evocative of Dulac’s concept, this is where the similarity ends between 20th and 21st century interpretation. Here, our Princess is placed in Darlington’s world – one which Hans Christen Anderson or Edmund Dulac would perhaps not comprehend. Subverted, the tale is now Darlington’s to tell. It is as much her own story as it is that of the Princess; a showcase of some of the rarest images for collectors to find now sit temptingly in this imaginary bedroom. Come Away Come Away is hung high nearing the ceiling, the perfect spot for Peter, Wendy, John and Tinkerbell to fly through the clouds above London.
Her love of John Everett Millais is also present. So many covet the iconic Darlington piece Ophelia inspired by the 19th century painter, a dark and intensely brooding piece whose presence both haunts and delights those who have managed to secure a scarce limited edition. In Princess and the Pea we see odes to Millais’s The Bridesmaid as well as The Lady of Shalott, the latter of which has also been beautifully recreated by Darlington as a unique limited edition. A personal biography follows, sharing moments of a much-loved childhood; trolls, rubik’s cubes and little ponies are emblems of memories of a simpler time. More recent, but no less iconic cultural references, can be found in the loveable portrait of The Fat Lady, a cheeky reference to J.K Rowlings adventures of Harry Potter. A self-portrait of the artist herself may be found sitting neatly behind the cabinet of the princess’s dresses. With more to be found within the Fairytale Collection, the richness and depth of inspiration across Darlington’s wealth of imagery is an incredible contribution to a generation of both art lovers and book worms.
The evening will no doubt be a proud moment for Kerry Darlington as she finally shares a lifelong ambition to produce a piece on this flawed tale by Hans Christen Anderson. Sitting top left in elegant yet sprawled writing, is a quote from Anderson “Life is the Most Wonderful Fairy Tale of All”. When Kerry Darlington is around, it most certainly is.