Laura Ford

‘Playing Real Pretend’, Laura Ford

HS Projects is delighted to present ‘Playing real pretend’, an exhibition of recent works not shown in London before by Laura Ford, one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists.

Laura Ford’s sculptures are faithful representations of fantasy with sometimes bitter sweet and menacing qualities mixed with tenderness. Ford uses humour and an acute observation of the human condition to engage with wider social and political issues. Her work is intensely crafted but playful and she has used a range of media to realise her work including drawing, painting, performance, set design and has increasingly taken on the challenge of public art alongside museum and gallery shows.

Inhabiting the space by the window, ‘Parrot in a Tree’, 2017, a girl dressed as a parrot sits on top of a tree; behind her, ‘Lion’, 2016, anxiously holds his tail, while ‘Giraffe Girl’, 2016, peers out into the street, all demanding the viewer’s attention, recognisably human and inherently tactile. Meanwhile around the corner ’Little Lords 1, 2, and 3’, 2019, three boys dressed as parrots, clothed in brilliant swathes of brightly coloured fabric, conspiratorially strut arresting the viewer with their imposing presence.

Across the space ‘Frog’, ’Poodle’, ‘Penguin’ and ‘Octopus’ from the ‘Keepers of the Wall’ series, 2016, a group of child-like animal figures, meticulously crafted, appear absorbed in their games, some looking out into the street, others jumping up on benches, or peering around plinths, ‘playing real pretend’; the fantastical and witty world of children’s play.

A storyline unfolds which, on one hand draws on our imaginative world of childhood and on the other calls this perfect world fundamentally into question. These hybrid anthropomorphic animal figures, never on a scale of one to one, always slightly larger or slightly smaller, possess a fantastical and witty quality along with a profound seriousness and depth. They inhabit the space they occupy, affecting its mood and although their eyes are absent they appear to see and have feelings and are clearly possessed of live imaginations.

Around the corner ’Tapestry Girl I and II’, 2017, two girls standing side by side, slightly larger, not on a scale of one to one, have been transformed into orange trees. Made out of steel, jesmonite and fabric, their feet are firmly rooted in the soil and their arms extended out to form the tree’s branches and foliage, connecting them to fairy tales, ancient legends and the world of childhood. They demand attention and inhabit the space they occupy, affecting its mood; in a comical but also quite sinister and insinuating way.

These hybrid figures are both immediately recognisable on certain levels but the familiar in the strange is a persistent theme. Whether this transformation is the result of desire or imposition is open to question, as is the case with all of Ford’s works, but it certainly becomes the extension of the human imagination. Looking at the works we are also playing make believe, as the element of surprise, the absurd and the nonsensical take over and we find ourselves wrapped up in mantles of imagination.

‘Pretend Real Play’ is at Howick Place from December 2019 to June 2020.