In the eighteenth century the term ‘rococo’ was initially intended as a slur, a flippant reference to fancy curves and fantasy sea-shells. But for a style discounted as superficial from the start, the rococo has had a remarkably enduring influence. In our next exhibition, we look at how rococo’s pursuit of elegance and playfulness has provided a rich source of inspiration for contemporary artistic practice. The exhibition brings together the work of two artists: Alexia Sinclair and Sue Williams A’Court.
Alexia Sinclair combines rococo flamboyance with contemporary fashion photography, creating theatrical re-imaginings of the eighteenth century French & English courts that are threaded with influences from historical painting. At every step, there is an exquisite attention to detail: her costumes are handmade from embroidered silks and muslins, her flowers grown specifically for the purpose, ensuring a textural richness and visual exuberance at every level in her scenes. This is contemporary rococo as a dramatic act, a lucid indulgence in luxuriousness and invention. Alexia’s work has been commissioned by numerous organisations including UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Queensland Ballet and New Zealand Opera, and has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Australian Centre for Photography, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
Sue Williams A’Court’s paintings draw deeply on British rococo and landscape painters such as Thomas Gainsborough. In Sue’s work, however, she takes the idealised landscape and delves further into its intangible nature, focusing on its essence as a conceptual and emotional space rather than a representation of a physical location. Arcadian scenes appear as if glimpsed through tantric geometric windows, aged with a patina that invites the viewer to add their own narrative to the scene. These paintings are quiet, contemplative, as much about the act of wanting to see as what is being seen, simultaneously a representation of an ideal and an articulation of its unattainable nature. Sue Williams A’Court recently exhibited at the Keepers House at the Royal Academy. Other notable exhibitions include the Jerwood Drawing Prize, the John Moores Painting Prize, The Threadneedle Prize, and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.