Girl power at the Walker Art Gallery

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Image of artist Phil Sayers giving a talk in the Walker

A ghostly Phil Sayers gives us an insight into his work

I went to the Walker Art Gallery yesterday to catch a talk by artist Phil Sayers about the Changing Places project he has produced with fellow artist Rikki Lundgreen. It consists of reinterpretations of certain paintings and sculptures that are on display in the Walker and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Phil told us that one of the main reasons for doing the project was his and Rikke’s love of dressing up! They seem to have used this interest to great effect in their re-workings of the paintings, giving them a 21st century twist. Phil explained that he felt the women in the paintings they had chosen were portrayed as passive or dependent on men, so the artists’ idea was to ‘free’ them from this in their versions of the work.

Rikki’s video installation, ‘Ascension’, was inspired by Segantini’s ‘The Punishment of Lust’. Her version shows the central woman as a living, breathing person whose heart you can hear beating. Phil explained that his, ‘St Agnes’ Eve with hindsight’ was inspired by the painting ‘Madeline After Prayer’ by Daniel Maclise. The original depicts a young woman ‘looking to the heavens’ as a ritual before sleeping, so that she will dream of her future husband. This idea is turned on its head in Phil’s digitally created image, as he dresses as Madeline and looks towards the floor, holding a string of eye-shaped beads. He told us that he wanted to show Madeline as an independent woman who sees everything around her and is rebelling against the ritual in the original.

Some of the pieces in the collection have an eerie, almost ghost-like quality, using double exposure to layer images on top of each other. As you can see from my great photograph (!) of a blurry Phil Sayers on the left and his transparent hands, I have accidentally paid a small homage to their work!

The installations will be on display at the Walker and the Lady Lever Art Gallery until 20 April 2008.

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