This showcase has been curated by Molly Lambourn. Each of these showcase images are photographs of art pieces all created by Molly Lambourn. Commentary written by J.W.H. Hobbs.
A spectator may notice certain archetypical poses Lambourn creates as part of her characters’ physical expression, a certain state of repose suggesting the naked sensation of grief. Particularly within Griefland is this motif demonstrated: the bottom figure of the almost shell-like shape of the piece unspooled, undressed literally as a visual representation of one’s emotional barriers being as absent as clothing. From this epicentre a hypnotic array of several objects, all living ones spreading across like a palm and every single eye staring directly at the observer.
Even at the time of writing the female’s deceptive pose, the rumination of the feminine face, and the emergence of anthropomorphic mandalas represent some of the greatest experimentation Lambourn has made with anatomy and geometry to date.
Lambourn’s play with fantasy and the fairy-tale Alice in Wonderland is likened to childhood, moments that have been lost and innocence that cannot be reclaimed but explored in this creative space. She considers the conversations that she can never have with her grandparents and the versions of herself that are lost, the person she becomes that they will never know.
The imagery began from the memory of ‘Hantel’ miniature ceramics that Molly’s grandma kept in a cabinet, as a child she was allowed to look at and carefully touch these beautiful pieces. The Alice in Wonderland set was passed down to the artist and is kept as a treasured memory for the curiosity and joy the objects provoked.
In Flowers invokes Lambourn’s rare use of bronze, teal, and autumnal tones growing throughout some of her larger and most ambitious stylised characters.
Portraying natural beauty without choosing the expected rustic or photographic method increasingly appeals to Lambourn, suiting her humble appreciation of the wealth of natural jewels such as pearl, the beauty of vines or even fungi rather than diamond or gold.
Molly confides that In Flowers: “was a contemplative piece about self and mental health I was struggling with the public ‘okay’ and happy version of myself contrasted with the anxious and darker moments I felt, the darkness vs light, hope vs devastation and pain. There is a duality in this, perhaps you can barely tell the difference between the two figures- it is so easy to miss the signs of struggle in our busy world.”
Jane in Chorton Leaf
“See objects, they see everything, they hear everything.”
What is a great source of original artistic inspiration? From Molly Lambourn’s mind; that which is considered unacknowledged. Unimportant. Forced, trough the finery of satire and high society, like the works of literary influence Jane Austin whom she links intimately to the piece, bridging separate times with items but the persistent idea of frustrated notice and perception.
Like Jane herself, drawn in the natural background, penned and profiled but also bare, rooted in the wild naturalism of the mind as much as her potential desires and wants so obliviously un-noted like an eye cast across the other scenery.
In an excitable rush, Molly explained to me her thoughts on the piece, and it was interesting how like her creations, the subject shifts indeterminably as I wondered when and if her thoughts on Austin transferred to the character captured within the picture:
“Notoriously secretive and she doesn’t want anyone to know her thoughts.”
‘Chorton Leaf’ itself is a deliberate inclusion within the title, the name of Jane Austen’s writing room wallpaper. Lambourn felt that “this wallpaper was deeply consuming and inspiring, its richness to me depicted the wealth of Austen’s mind.”
The intwined figure enclosed in vines is the subject of the eye, and the audience inverting the concept of attention, musing perhaps as Lambourn herself does:
“She is writing great novels, great love stories. She is thinking scandalous thoughts. The groves, the leave of the wallpaper. They soak it in. every gasp, every thought -some too delicious to be put to paper. In that room she is at one with herself. And in a sense, nature.”
This work was produced during a 3-month residency with Jane Austen’s House Museum.
Lessons We Learnt Over Chai
The evocatively named Lessons We Learnt Over Chai is equally catching with its colour palate, retaining the bright white of polished and cleaned ceramic now given the substance of pattern and illustration.
As with all of Lambourn’s ceramic exhibits, each practically laden with minute details contained within several individual items of unique crockery it is better for the audience to read and discover the details themselves. While engaging to a point, an artist who prises independence of action and thought very much refutes the idea of depriving the audience of discovery, and for them to gaze and read much as they would an artistic note or passage they happen to find in life.
Chai is a very personal piece with a poignant message about a very cutting and painted societal issue; “about stories of domestic violence from women I met in India, [with] each story anonymised.”
“What struck me during my time in India was the absolute joy and beauty that each person I met radiated, yet in moments of quiet in the day over chai we would really talk in depth and learn the darker aspects of being a woman. All of the women I taught had either witnessed or experienced domestic violence. This tea set shows the civility, the beauty and composure of the women I met, the order and structure that they maintained despite the sometimes-awful moments they experienced.”
No piece, ironically for something named after chaos shows the incredible grain of detail Lambourn can add with a pen. Up close, it becomes as accurate as seeds on a strawberry.
And as the eye turns over to bodies and faces, distortion is intended to lure and strike with the idea that reality is not quite right, and that things are not as they are expected or assumed to be.
The flow of the figure, of shade, pen strokes or the flowing hair is where In Flux begins, an active piece to gaze upon while it rests stationary. Often there is the very carefully cultivated representation of what one might be overwhelmed by, the chaos of emotion and automatic pleasure of noticing patterns and reading expressions part of Lambourn’s personal entertainment, and a core design philosophy creating playful pieces.
Lost in Translation
Original artists depicting a mindscape are left with something of a unique imprint.
Lost in Translation demonstrates from a face-value appraisal how factors such as a greater presence of darkness than In Flux, how impressively distinct the occasionally uncanny and carefully distorted or bedazzling figures and animals present a plethora of shapes and expressions from something as simple as depicting the back rather than the front, the impression of gaze and untold truth of thought repeated often particularly within this unique picture.
On the face of looking at the piece for the first time, it is interesting knowing the title just to consider. Bereft of affiliation, disconnected from the artist as much as Lambourn may feel from that moment in time. How every human being failed to fully translate the subconscious within them.
Arguably the most recognisable, fantastically artistically diverse creation of Molly Lambourn are the incredible array of wooden Russian Dolls, here showcased in an artful display clearly reflecting the immersion in a multiplying pattern and growing complexity one associates instinctively with opening a Russian Doll.
Together, the unique dolls bear utterly unique personalities and moods drawn upon their eyes, lips and lashes are transformed further into an arresting arrangement suiting the space.
The Patterned Army is both a celebration of unity and a playful piece, created for the Holy Fluff event:
“[Patterned Army] links back to Lessons we learnt over chai, thinking about external beauty and composure vs the chaos within. ‘Holy Fluff’ was the theme of Supermarket Art Fair that year and we were looking to create something that looked fun that possibly had a more profound meaning if you were willing to look.”
Untitled Russian Dolls
A textile array of bespoke pieces, the photography cannot convey the touch of Lambourn’s plethora of handcrafted figures. The artist will readily convey the joy of sculpting itself, the material like snakeskin or touching through water to reach sand, utterly unreal from a reality without physical feel.
One of her inarguably more prominent creations, crafted lovingly with the furtive contemplation and playfulness of the female figure, each doll provides its own personhood, a shifting character and beauty as a piece standing and seeming to appreciate and draw amusement from the surrounding environment.
A key inspiration for Molly Lambourn’s figurines is the 1928 silent film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ by Dreyer, making an immense creative impact:
“I was inspired by the power of the face. The emotions we can read without words on one’s face, the stories that they can tell. These dolls do not work like traditional Russian dolls, they stand alone independently. Their stories, trauma, joys aren’t clear, but we can empathise and only wonder the unspoken tales. So many women throughout history whose words have been forgotten, lives lived and experienced but the experienced never fully captured or articulated. These dolls, their stories are for the viewer to imagine.”
Map of One Existence
The open-ended title, playful, earthed, and the stylised impression of a map shine light on our own reflection as much as suggest Molly’s own background and past; in the artist’s own words:
“Self-portrait as a map and the story of my life and emotions at 17 years old.”
Much like the face and the female body, there is a wry humour and deal of mystery that comes from the fact that such supposedly obvious items are really nothing of the fact.
When one notices the details there is hidden meaning perhaps. As an audience member also quickly becomes engaged with the realisation that when a map is not a map, much like Wonderland the riddle of items, semantics and symbology burst from the artistic item into the eye.
It is worth noting this piece won the John Downton Illustration Award and was exhibited across Kent, ending in an exhibition at the Turner Contemporary.
Caught and Displayed
Undoubtedly one of Molly Lambourn’s most recognisable pieces, the fantastic array of characters, shades and ink occupying the makeshift plumage of a distorted peacock, her evident fixation with the nature of display and mixing details of something as innocuous as head feathers into tiny art pieces in their own right. Lambourn’s artistic creations are often labyrinthine, playing or toying with the direction of the audiences eye, the nature of the gestalt in forming a being or concept and how the wry or hidden artifice of something as bare as the human form can house touches of beauty, horror or the uncanny mixture of bother.
The knowing gaze Lambourn places within her animals and characters so well from the very head of the creature teases the question; who is caught and displayed? It is well worth trying for a few moments to try to trace the general shape of the piece, and see if you also find yourself drawn to different aspects of this multi-faceted art piece every single time.
Welcome to My World
In many ways the seminal expression of Lambourn’s artistic career, and her life. Undoubtedly the piece that comes to her mind when speaking of her talent, by a quirk of sighting or chance the pieces of stylised crockery and illustration seem to weave their way throughout Lambourn’s portfolio and website.
The crockery is second hand sourced. “Unloved with a story to tell”, in the words of the artist herself. With that starting point, objects pass into not just decoration, but appreciation. Visibility and notice, truth and attention that isn’t fragmentary.
Although; it is best to ask and invite rather than spoil the audience. The rich detail was consciously placed into what is missed. Where a description is a path of least resistance in some cases, your eyes and ideas venture the most and Welcome to my world is an exhibition puzzle for you to enjoy.
An early beginning to intuit so many of the themes and imagery being expressed is something of a mantra used by the artist during the time of conception, from Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening’:
‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep’.
And one may perhaps initially think of the dead, peaceful if this is the end, or resting if it is not. That we must carry on, tired, forever if need be, that in some pivotal moments we can admit that wider fatigue, not being tired but weary in out heart, weary of life.
The nymph or person perched upon a bed of leaves in the thickened forest of one plate is perhaps a mirror, a playful smile of one comforted and embracing the forest as a mental retreat, the ‘world’ in this case as a small part of childhood or rest clung to as a preferable alternative, most importantly in such a place where the figure or mind who conceived it can be purely themselves in form, no clothes or words or masquerade.
The weave and flow of the peacock feathers, those female figures are Lambourn showing nature as filled with people in detail, each of the people is in free flow, absorbed in thoughts. This biographer would argue that this piece was part of a turning point in life, expressed with creative art. Lambourn decided something then that shows in the future, that she would depict the nakedness of nature, of your soul into art and the universe echoed that back at you. Rather than eroticism it is honesty, like people occupying a shower.
A recurring motif by the artist is that of the inclination to be rooted, to secure oneself like the ladies in the tree to a moment and to becoming something certain, and Welcome to my world certainly had artistic acclaim as well as being the catalyst for a change in the artist’s personality. Welcome to my world reflects a time of life and decision made, one still being lived, playfully being half-hidden. Because it isn’t hidden, most people just didn’t look closely, and if they did; who would have the opportunity and courage to ask or contemplate the questions provoked or their own reclusive nature?