‘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. 

‘Playing Real Pretend’ by Laura Ford

HS Projects is delighted to announce the opening of ‘Playing real pretend’ at 5 Howick Place, an exhibition of recent works, not shown in London before, by Laura Ford, one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists. 

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‘Opening the Air and other stories’, Jyll Bradley

HS Projects curated ‘Opening the Air and other stories’ by Jyll Bradley. Jyll Bradley makes site specific installations, drawings and sculpture which explore the potential of light to create new space. Her work always has a personal root and often draws upon her life-long interest in architecture and the structures we build in order to grow, be that practically or emotionally. For ‘Opening the Air and other stories’ she brings together works from distinct eras of her practice which, in different ways, draw from her adult life experience of living in London.

‘Opening the Air’ (2018) is a three-dimensional drawing made up of a geometric field of fluorescent Plexiglas discs or ‘coins’. The coins bear intricate laser-etchings derived from plans of early eighteenth-century glasshouse design and are planted on a low workaday plinth made of rough scaffold boards. As London’s urban landscape becomes ever more glassy, ‘Opening the Air’ reflects upon the original glasshouses whose currency was green growth. Activated by light and the sun’s passage, the work dramatically changes in appearance throughout the day. ‘Opening the Air’ continues Bradley’s exploration of glasshouses and their unique qualities of both structural materiality and transparency.

‘Hop Train’ (2016) is a model of an artwork proposed by Bradley for which was runner-up in a major competition for the newly developed London Bridge Station. Bradley’s work – a light-sculpture hop garden suspended within a 100m long tunnel – paid homage to London Bridge’s hop trading heritage and the once mythic train that took hundreds of thousands of Londoners down to Kent for the annual hop harvest.

‘The Bridge’ (2011) is a twin light-box installation, whose sculptural dimension is heightened by attendant white reflective panels. This image/text work was made in response to the loss of Bradley’s next-door neighbour. Here the ‘off the shelf’ photographic light box – most often used as a vehicle for commercial advertising – acts as a beacon, a concrete memory that marks the passing of time and of a person. Poignantly, the City of London skyline as seen from Rotherhithe, which Bradley once shared with her neighbour from their adjacent riverside homes – and which she photographed shortly after his death – has now changed forever. ‘The Bridge’ takes the viewer on to a visual and emotional journey with a physical dimension added through the sculptural element.

‘Opening the Air’ was commissioned by Sculpture in the City 2018.

‘Hop Train’ was a proposal commissioned by Futurecity. The model was designed for Bradley by Beep Studio.

‘Opening the Air and other stories’ was at Howick Place from June to December 2019.