June 4, 2020

The Yellow Wallpaper @ Cob Gallery, London

Eve Ackroyd "Double Portrait", 2012, 81.3 x 66 cm, oil on canvas.
Eve Ackroyd "Double Portrait", 2012, 81.3 x 66 cm, oil on canvas.

The Yellow Wallpaper 22nd June – 21st July 2012

The Cob Gallery, 205 Royal Collage Street, London (nearest tube Camden Town /Camden Road)

Eve Ackroyd "Double Portrait", 2012, 81.3 x 66 cm, oil on canvas.
Eve Ackroyd "Double Portrait", 2012, 81.3 x 66 cm, oil on canvas.

Based on the Gothic novella of Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a collaborative exhibition featuring the work of six female artists. The story itself is of a woman married to a doctor, her brother is also a doctor and between them they decree her femininity to be a form of psychotic hysteria. In an attempt to ‘treat’ the illness she is removed to the countryside where the isolation in a room of yellow wallpaper gradually results in her true demise into insanity.

“On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind. The colour [yellow] is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing….There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.” (Extract from ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published 1892)


The feminist slant of the story lead to its rediscovery in the 1970s and in this exhibition a new generation have adopted and explored the role of patriarchy via the yellow wallpaper. The exhibition begins on the ground floor with the printed wallpaper of Suzannah Petttigrew. Interestingly she has produced 21 300×50 cm rolls of this, reproducing the wallpaper in a contemporary context. Flora Robinson also shows two pieces on the entrance floor, with a stunning site specific installation in the basement (A constant irritant to a normal mind, 2012, digital prints on card, dimensions variable). As one wonders down (or up) the stairs the white sculptural forms on the facing wall should not be missed, as they echo the downstairs darker version.

Into the basement: traditional media pieces mix with sculpture and installation in a mixture of styles. The theme is so well explored in the 18 works shown that the small scale goes almost unnoticed. Downstairs Gabiella Boyd, Becky Allan, Adeline de Monseignat, Eve Ackroyd and Flora Robinson create the feeling of the hallucinogenic, yellowing walls with their expressive works. Of particular note is the sculpture Mother in Child of Adeline de Monseignat (Vintage fur, pillow filler, glass, blanket, steel, wood, mirror, 50 x 19 x 18 on cell of 83 x 130 x160, 2012) a striking sculpture which, partly due to the mirrors, has the eerie affect of making one feel as if the room is shrinking and moving!

A psychologically challenging modern take on Gothic art.


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