Kensal Green Cemetery, West London’s quiet grove and historic resting place of the rich, glamorous and often infamous, has plenty of famous men as well as the devoted, often unsung women in their lives, including Lord Byron’s wife and Oscar Wilde’s mother. Founded in 1832, Kensal Green was the first of seven so called “magnificent cemeteries” built in Victorian London. For every Victorian gentleman here there are many more women, mythicized in novels and paintings, both fallen and forgotten, whose bodies won’t be found here but whose spirits haunt its grounds.
Just as wildlife thrives on man’s deathly soil, nearly two centuries after its first occupant, Margaret Gregory, was buried here, the historic Kensal Green chapel has been reopened as Dissenters’ Gallery and three emerging young female artists will reclaim the space anew in Haunted Beauty, a series of exhibitions starting in 2017. Curator Vicky Caplin has selected artists who are heroines of their stories, starting with a solo show by Nadine Talalla.
Interested in female archetypes and tragedy, Talalla paints what she calls “ugly women” taken from different points in history and embedded in fantastic, dreamlike narratives. She paints strong female archetypes who are not idealized to a male standard of perfection. Talalla takes influence in part from regency painting and the later Victorian period, a time of contradiction, where sex and promiscuity were covered up morals and tradition. “There is this grotesqueness and deformity in my work. At the same time there’s this veneer of civilness, which in my paintings looks quite satirical. Austerity is not in keeping with the reality that is going on,” she describes. Presented as goddesses, and other times as mythical beasts, Talalla’s women never seem to be rooted like ghosts, though this has as much to do with the artists’ international upbringing.
Born to Malaysian and Australian parents, and educated and living in Australia, Malaysia, United Kingdom and China, Talalla draws from a vivid spectrum of influences from Greco-Roman art, Mycenaean deities, calligraphy, and the Malaysian spirit world. Contemporary influences include the Expressionist art movement and contemporary female artists Jenny Saville and Cecily Brown.
According to the artist this dislocation has much to do with why she paints: “A lot of the reason behind why I was attracted to painting is because it allows you to create another world, to have a place that you can go to. I like the idea that paintings have something solid about them and that they have these limitations. They go into a home and they have a feeling of belonging about them, much more so than with other forms of art.”
The Haunted Beauty series will continue throughout 2017, showcasing emerging female artists and presenting an engaging programme of art, talks and events at this atmospheric London location.
Community Engagement Workshop | Saturday January 28th 2PM
Conducted by Nadine & inspired by three of the graves in the cemetery
Closing Night Conversation | Thursday Feb 2nd 6- 8 PM
Conversation between Nadine Talalla and exhibition curator Vicky Caplin