Anna Bunting-Branch, Juvenile Drama, 2014.
Project Space: Anna Bunting-Branch
12 May - 30 August 2014
A Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World
12 May – 30 August 2014
Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space
Café 171, Jerwood Space, London, SE1 0LN
Jerwood Visual Arts presents new work by London-based artist Anna Bunting-Branch.
Bunting-Branch works in painting, moving image and writing to explore feminist visions and re-visions of history. For this exhibition, she has produced a wall-based painting object which takes the form of a toy theatre.
The work draws both its title and imagery from Margaret Cavendish’s utopian fantasy A Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World, a proto-science fiction novel written in 1666. This novel details the journey of a ship-wrecked woman who is transported into an adjoining world called The Blazing World by a tempest. In this world, she journeys through lands populated by half-man-half-animal figures working variously as philosophers, astronomers and chemists. Eventually arriving to be presented to the Emperor, the woman becomes Empress and goes on to rule over The Blazing World. The different layers of the painting object relate to the stages of this journey as it unfolds in time, focussing less on the content of the narrative and more on the landscape in which the narrative is staged. The work is framed by two depictions of Margaret Cavendish herself, playfully alluding to the fact that the author writes herself into her own story as the Empress’ scribe and confidante.
The toy theatre gained popularity from the late 18th-century as a form of domestic entertainment. They were typically hand painted and assembled in the home, allowing the popular plays of the day to be re-performed for family members and guests. In this sense, the form of a toy theatre offers the artist an opportunity to re-stage Cavendish’s novel outside of its time. It is the imaginative potentiality of re-staging – allowing a text to resonate with a world outside of the one it constructs – that interests the artist. The use of a toy theatre also makes a playful connection to Jerwood Space’s relationship with theatre and performance.
Image: Anna Bunting-Branch, Juvenile Drama, 2014. Courtesy of the artist