People love tiny things. Maybe this is a sweeping generalisation but stay with me because there is research to prove it. According to science (the internet) we humans can’t get enough of the small stuff because it forces us to act with care when we are handling it. Much like we might feel a connection to a small kitten and have no desire to hurt it, we might feel a connection to a small inanimate object and, for the most part, have no desire to break it. Of course there are exceptions to this rule but that’s something else to think about.
You might remember playing with dolls houses as a child, or perhaps you still do. You might remember standing outside a junk shop and longing for that tiny bidet in the window that you would almost certainly lose within 3.5 minutes, when you were only a tiny person yourself. That love and longing for tiny furniture you had as a child never really goes away, and for many of us, we are taken right back to that pavement outside that shop window when confronted with miniature things.
This might make Isobel Cortese’s enchanting work all the more harrowing. In Cortese’s own words, “small is powerful”, and powerful is certainly what her work is; tiny miniature depictions, some of extreme social injustice and some of the scarier side of the weird and wonderful, all shrouded in a false sense of security. At first the scenes seem playful and idyllic, with nature and greenery being the first thing you notice – it’s not until further inspection and scrutiny that you notice the actual nature of the dark stills that Cortese is presenting us with. As dolls houses are dream lands and places of escape when we are young, these curiosity boxes of violence are both nightmarish and hideously real. And like a lot of art that is presented in miniature, Cortese’s work is evocative of fairy tales, but maybe more Brothers Grimm than Disney. Cortese says herself that dark tales inspire her, along with her love for natural history museums and the environment.
Cortese uses an array of mixed media in her work, with several different kinds of receptacles holding the thought provoking centre pieces; apothecary jars, salt and pepper shakers and snow globes make up just some of her fascinating collection, and they all serve the ultimate purpose of sparking curiosity and surprise, which are two elements at the crux of Cortese’s work.
Come and check out Isobel Cortese’s small but incredibly mighty work which is at the gallery now. With a mix of prints and mixed media sculptures in the collection.