Some of the research topics I previously identified from my investigation into gnomes was “dolls, puppets, theatre, performance and surrealism” and “ornaments and ceramics.” To research these topics I visited the Brighton Museum and Gallery where they show an exhibition on performers and spectators, and another exhibition on ceramics.
“Public performances happen all over the world. They inspire us to make spectacular things – costumes, masks, puppets, instruments and images. These objects are used with fantastic stories, histories, music or dance to transport us for a time to imaginary worlds.”
Performers and Spectators Exhibition
When walking around the exhibition I focused on objects that were surrealist in appearance or had an interesting process. I found the visual qualities of the Genie Mask (2nd from the left, top row in the image above) and Lupercalian Priest Mask particularly interesting, the use of distorted scale of the face worn by a performer and the mask with multiple faces on one head both relate to the surrealist aesthetic. I was also very interested in the process behind 19th century Indian “Shadow Puppets” (1st and 2nd form the left, middle row in the image above). Shadows of the puppets would be cast onto a cloth screen, this meant the original puppet was not directly visible and the lighting used could distort the scale and create atmosphere. Modern shadow shows include contemporary music, multimedia and light shows. This process could be a way to create an eerie yet playful feeling using gnome shadow puppets, with a further exploration into music, multimedia and lighting. Furthermore I could explore location, as the initial setting of my memory was a woods I could investigate projecting shadow puppets within a wood environment on the scenery.
The above ceramics, with the exception of the middle image on the bottom row, are part of a collection donated in 1903 by Henry Willet, a founding father of Brighton Museum. His collection of pottery and porcelain illustrates British popular history, conveying political, social and cultural history through the figures and vessels.
The objects themselves have very little information to accompany them, other than a title and a brief description of the materials and imagery used. Therefore from the vast collection I picked out a small selection of pieces that were surreal in appearance, I also discovered a Grayson Perry pot. Difficult Background, 2001, contains illustrations of children playing in 1950s clothing, however on closer inspection reveals burning buildings and figures screaming and running naked from others who are armed. There is also a girl who is presenting an apple to a boy over a signpost labelled ‘lost innocence’. This pot can be viewed as making a statement on the atrocities of conflict.
Difficult Background by Grayson Perry, 2001
Although the pot is neither surreal of directly relating to my line of study, the concept of creating seemingly positive imagery with a darker meaning is very interesting. The idea of the gnome sanctuary was to be whimsical and playful, however the number of gnomes in a woodland setting, plus the eerie connotations associated with gnomes, means that they can also have a creepy atmosphere. This idea of juxtaposition of positive and negative could be something I include within my final outcome.