‘Strange Folk’ brings together nine artists all of whom are based in Cornwall. The exhibition works with themes of Folk Horror across a range of media and different platforms and broadly seeks to make the familiar seem strange.
We acknowledge the importance of sound in creating the right kind of ‘folk horror’ ambience, or as HP Lovecraft terms it, ‘Malign Tensity’, through David Bessell’s soundtrack to the show and the interactive audio works, including the detuned ‘autoharps’ which can be plucked to mix with the show’s soundtrack. The soundtrack also provides a context that wraps around the other two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.
Michelle Ohlson works with household objects to make us see them in a different way, deconstructing the usual boundaries and meanings we associate with sinks, taps and light switches. Sue Leake is a figurative artist with an interest in bones and skulls. She shows that not only do they have a structural role to play but that they are beautiful, fragile and multi-formed objects, particularly the case with her drawings of bird skulls. Michael Harris’ work focuses on the human form, concentrating on heads, making strange more conventional portraiture and weaving into his images a sense of ritual decapitation and emphasising the visceral qualities of heads.
Jill Eisele’s work figures around the crepuscular, providing brooding landscapes that emphasis the ancient qualities of the Cornish landscape and the sentience of both light and nature. Kate Walter’s fugitive processes capture the subtle body, the unseen and the fleeting, that which exceeds rationality. Anne Wilkening’s images also work with light and the physical body to create a sense of energies beyond the obvious.
Jason Walker’s intense engagement with detail and care in the painting of dead birds provides a ritualistic memorial to the cycle of life and death. Tanya Krzywinska’s art is informed by her work of many years as a scholar of occult fictions; her themes are folk magic, power and agency (or its lack) in the face of what Lacan termed the big Other.
The Strange Folk gathered here in this exhibition were commissioned specifically to accompany the Folk Horror 2019 conference. They each aimed to work through the Folk Horror themes that have such a deep resonance in the Cornish region. Echoes of that resonance can be seen in Du Maurier’s ‘The Birds’, David Pinner’s Ritual (1967) and Plague of the Zombies (1966), as well as within Cornwall’s monumental granite pillows and the remnants of Celtic Christianity or Bronze Age culture.
Tanya Krzywinska 01/09/19