Monday 2 June 2014

Review of Liane Lang: An Idle Brain Is Satan’s Shoppe at House of St Barnabas

Liane Lang: An Idle Brain Is Satan’s Shoppe
House of St Barnabas, London
17 March – 17 June 2014

Upon encountering Liane Lang’s work for the first time a few years ago, I was intrigued by how her ‘subjects’ could achieve some of their postures, and by their haunting, timeless appearance and pallid countenance. In the meantime, I have had insider insight into the production process of her silicon ‘dolls’, myself sitting and having my legs and head cast in her studio. But this hasn’t spoilt any of the magic and allure upon being met with Lang’s new projects, each one as thoroughly researched and painstakingly produced as the last.

The most recent, on display in the Bazalgette room within Soho Square’s House of St Barnabas, was produced during a residency at the Casa Guidi in Florence, erstwhile home to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, the Romantic poets, known as much for their love affair as for their works. Elizabeth began writing at the tender age of six, and a large collection of her juvenilia was published by her mother. Suffering from chronic ill health from 15 onwards, Elizabeth spent much of her time in bed – a fate which she exploited well in the production of poetry. After a letter-writing courtship with Robert, who made contact to admire her poetry when she was 38 years old, the two eloped, married at Marylebone Chapel, and left for Italy in the dead of night, accompanied solely by a lady’s maid and a spaniel. Casa Guidi is where they settled and where they went on to produce more exceptional work between 1847 and 1861.

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