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The Crack Magazine

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Visualising the Fantastic

‘Spin me a yarn’ at the Gallagher & Turner gallery features work from Deborah Snell, Ellie Clewlow and someone called David Hockney, with each artist giving a visual makeover to the words of the Brothers Grimm, Shakespeare and Angela Carter.

You’ll have heard of David Hockney, right? Arguably the UK’s (if not the world’s) greatest living artist, he continues to enthral with each new exhibition. What I particularly love about him is that his talent feels unbound by any one style or medium. From photographs to faxes to works on iPads, he’s always pushing that inquiring mind of his into new and interesting places. One of the things he has always been a dab hand at is prints, and Gallagher & Turner are presenting a series of etchings and aquatints from his series ‘Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm’. These illustrations are among the artist’s best-known, conceived over three years and published in 1969. They showcase Hockney’s ingenuity for composition, his charm as a draughtsman and his mastery of the medium, detailing witty reimaginings of princesses, sorceresses and other characters from the likes of Rapunzel and Rumpelstilskin.

Hockney is always a big draw, but this exhibition also features two local artists who more than hold their own in such esteem company; artists such as Sunderland’s Ellie Clewlow who has responded directly to Hockney’s illustrations. She works with recycled books to sculpt layered palimpsests, exploring the development of fairy tales over time: from the oral tradition of female storytellers, to the female roles shaped by the Grimms. She also references modern-day feminist retellings of tales by writers such as Angela Carter. “These are the stories told about women,” she says, “and those that we tell about ourselves.”

And then we have Newcastle-based artist Deborah Snell (work pictured), who has taken inspiration from Shakespeare. On the 400th anniversary of the publication of his Folio, Snell has re-imagined some of his classic tales including ‘As You Like It’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, paying particular attention to scenes that reference animal characteristics. Drawing directly onto lithograph stones, she has worked in collaboration with Hole Editions to produce a series of limited edition lithograph prints (which are available to buy from the gallery). She has also hand-sculpted some exquisite puppets, too. Furthermore, she, like Ellie Clewlow, also has an interest in Angela Carter, and this exhibition features a series of her drawings that have been inspired by the great magic realist author. Snell: “I love to see the world through a character’s eyes, discovering new perspectives. Creating a character – whether it’s through drawing or model making – is like acting. You have to see the world through their eyes: what they wear, how they stand, their facial expression, how they react to other cast members in the scene/picture.” In short: all the gallery is a stage. RM

Spin me a yarn: Deborah Snell, Ellie Clewlow & David Hockney, 1 September-7 October, Gallagher & Turner Gallery, St. Mary’s Place, Newcastle.