Currently open for viewing at Vally Ericson’s (Valium Lavender’s) Art Street Gallery is a small, engaging exhibition of art by Purple Leonis (Nel4481). Entitled Dark Paradise, it comprises just ten images (more’s the pity, given the gallery space and the beauty of the art), each of which is rich in motif and story, touching on period settings and fantasy.
I have always enjoyed Purple’s work, as she always uses pose, colour, light and setting in her images to communicate with us by painting an entire story within each image. It is an approach Purple uses to both provide single-framed narratives and entire tales spread across multiple images. Within Dark Paradise, she provides a mix of both.
On entering the wing of the gallery where the exhibition is framed, one encounters a trio of images, a couple in formal wear, he standing, she sitting, in a traditional photographic pose oft seen in the early days of photograph, a closer shot of the woman seen in the first image, this time with her eyes covered by what appears to be a jewel-encrusted mask, and the third a woman in red, surrounded by billowing waves of red fabric. All three are in many respects “classic” portraits and might be taken as such.
From here the images change in tone, becoming more fanciful – and I use this word in terms of “fantasy” – as we progress, introducing magical motifs (mushrooms, ravens); genuine flights of fancy (drifting on a bunch of hand-held balloons), to genuine trips of fantasy (alien creatures, centaurs) and finally a series suggestive of vampires. Thus, we appear to have thematically frame images that exist individually or in smaller groups connected by theme (the couple and the woman in the first two images, the vampire theme in the final three).
However, all ten images are linked in a broader theme: the entire setting suggests that we are within a room within a grand house; the pictures of the walls a mix of family portraits and strangely themed images chosen by whoever live here – perhaps the couple in the first image.
Thus we have something of a sense of the familial here, while the furnishings, colours and fixtures learn into the Gothic in a way, leading us toward the vampiric elements in the final three images, and so we’re gently led into the idea we are perhaps in a dream, an unfolding story, progressing from the first image which (either deliberately or not is down to the artist to say) is called The Beginning, and progressing around the final trio and their darker theme of blood and death / the undead.
True, some of the images appear out-of-place to theis core vampire idea – floating on a bunch of balloons, centaurs, strange creatures – but how many dreams are entirely linear and without non-sequitur flashes? Plus, look at the tone of the more fantastical images: the centaur is linked to death (and thus the undead), for example, the monster in Cavaliere could be mindful of a vampire in its “true” form as beloved of monster movies) so even these images are perhaps not so far removed from the idea that we are entering the dark paradise of dreams and imagination.
I would have personally preferred to have seen this exhibition continued through more of the gallery space, such is the depth of narrative in the images, but don’t let the brevity put you off; Dark Paradise is a thoroughly engaging pocket exhibition.
- Art Street Gallery (Valium SL 1, rated Moderate)