Thursday, 24 January 2013

Imps galore! Rebecca O'Hanlon's photograph


This is a photograph by photography student Rebecca O'Hanlon at Anglia Ruskin University.

It caught my eye as I walked through this corridor:

anglia bridge

At first I thought it was a painting. It's composed so carefully.

o'hanlon detail face

An irritable woman sits at a desk in front of a white space. She is surrounded by little people -- imps? sprites? pixies? They climb around on her and near her and teem across her desk.

She flicks at one, without looking.

o'hanlon detail flick

Upon closer inspection, we see that the little people are all the same person. A plaque on the wall next to the work contains this artist's statement:

"In this composition I use my 'Mini-Me' technique to help me illustrate the differences that exist in a subject's personality between when they are at work and when indulging in free time. ... it is the conflict between the need to conform at work, and the release found in free time that I try to capture in this composition."

I have to say that I did not see this in the work.  And when faced with conflicting communications -- artist's work vs artist's statement -- I tend to say:

Trust the art (not the artist).

   Sorry, Rebecca O'Hanlon... :-)

For me, the work is more whimsical and layered than the artist's statement with its focus on one individual's personality and its blunt opposites (work/free time) suggests.

Bizarrely, this composition reminds me of the German children's rhyme about little elfs called Heinzelmännchen who creep into your house at night and tidy everything up.

Source: Daniela Dreuth's Kinderohren-blog

Except the imps in this photo aren't tidying. They're busy having fun.

There's also a mystery here: a picture within a picture (within a picture within a picture...).

o'hanlon detail pic within pic

The umbrella-flyers are my favourites.

o'hanlon detail umbrella

They remind me of another German children's story, taken from Heinrich Hoffmann's 19th-C. book Der Struwwelpeter. It's the story of the Flying Robert.

Source: Wikisource.

And the photo is also a tiny bit like Victorian fairy paintings with their wild and weird little people:

Richard Dadd, The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke, 1855-64, Tate. Source: Japanese wikipedia.


Who: Rebecca O'Hanlon.
Where: Anglia Ruskin University, in the first-floor 'bridge' corridor between the Helmore Building and the Lord Ashcroft Building.
To find it: Enter Helmore from East Road. Go to the first-floor Costa café. Go through the double-doors at the end. Turn immediately right and go through another set of double-doors. You will see the art!

On display until 30 Jan. 2013.

Visit Rebecca O'Hanlon's photography website.

Like Rebecca O'Hanlon on Facebook.

Related posts:
Realism plus fantasy:  An extraordinary painting by Ulyana Gumeniuk

Woodcuts in a corridor:  John Lawrence illustrations for Philip Pullman


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