The Fishmarket Gallery in Northampton feels like an out-of-context New York underground venue for trendy happenings. When I arrive, the space is filled with the Lost Vagueness team setting up for a glitzy event. Louise Clarke’s installation fills the entire gallery and takes the form of a giant, wall-based work which links together to form a dreamy fairytale “nature” narrative that veers from playful innocence to sexual aggression.
At first, the wall-based paintings look like supersized book illustrations or tattoos. A “flower” made from a number of female arms surrounds a window, or a line drawing of a bird is coloured in patches with glitter. But there is more to these paintings than blown-up studies; they have been constructed to carry a physical presence rarely associated with wall paintings. Clarke mixes drawing, painting, collage and found objects, resulting in a homespun sensibility that stops the expansive space from overwhelming the work.
Show Me Your Garden And I Shall Tell You What You Are is filled with conflicting symbolism. A small black cat sits above a window while a sexy, manga-style drawing of a willowy girl blows a wave of pretty, collaged flowers through the air – but all of this prettiness is corrupted by a painting filling the back wall of an epic serpent writhing out of a girl’s mouth.
Clarke’s use of materials such as buttons, crockery and matchsticks offers a sober, manmade contrast to the often female- identified use of nature in her imagery. is contrast of a synthetic vision of the natural world with one from folklore, combined with the mythical themes of her scenarios, offers a view of nature that is delicate and fragile but open to more sinister interpretation.
GEMMA DE CRUZ