Against the backdrop of a classically beautiful Lake District vista, the menacingly Cat-like humanoid figures pace melancholy. The distant urban cousins of Beatrix Potters Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail. The stark contrast is undesirable. Which would you rather gaze at and daydream about. Yet herein lies the honesty of the age in which we live. One where our landscape has changed irrevocably. Where the urban has crept in and taken over the natural. Where our desires to improve ourselves and progress with technology also brings our inner demons to the surface.
Laura Ford’s sculptures act as interference. By portraying the animals we love and care so deeply for, she’s found a way to show us the error of our ways. And at very least the characteristics that are so deeply engrained upon us. Take for example her ‘Sorrow Filled Cat’ or ‘Old Nick’ at the fireplace.
Her thoughtful sculptures tend to be obscured or hidden directly from our gaze. As though they are
there but don’t quite want to be seen. There’s also a sadness to all of them. Instances from our past, current and future. The ‘Sizzled: Armour Boys’ lay on the floor in haphazard positions in the stunning Blackwell House wooden beamed hall with its carefully restored Peacock frescoes dazzling on the walls. A perfectly sculptured homeless badger rifles forlornly through a bin in the pristine garden at the front of the house. Whereas a group of soft textile penguins crowd together worryingly (with their hoodies poking out) in the gallery at Kendal’s Abbott Hall.
Her drawings are sublime. Dotted around Blackwell House but a more focused display can be found at Abbott Hall. Once again portraying the animals that can give rise in us such depth of human emotion. A hedgehog waiting at a bus stop. Rabbits sleeping on a staircase. A badger using a payphone. To the fox huddled up near a cash machine. Its powerful.
The ‘Waldegrave Poodles’ sit preened to perfection next to the paintings of George Romney in the Abbott Hall’s Georgian drawing room. Whilst next door the faceless ‘Medieval Cloud Girls’ make you wonder what’s so wrong with them and why they’re tethered to the floor with a huge ceramic red block.
I could go on and on. Its such a magnificent display of contemporary sculpture, both weird and obscure in a Pans Labyrinth way. Both chilling and nightmarish, yet disguised by the animal forms we all love and cherish. Clever and thought provoking and a real coup for Blackwell House and Abbott Hall. A must see… I absolutely loved it!