In Your Dreams catalogue essay


Edwina Bartlem & Victor Griss, Exhibition Curators
In Your Dreams


Gracia Haby, page detail from the artists' book Tumbling lightly, tumbling fast (I), 2014

Imagination is a powerful faculty, and it is something that artists and children have in common and in abundance. It is central to visualisation, creative thought and problem solving, and is an antidote to the mundane.

One of the wonderful opportunities of parenthood is to rediscover the world through the eyes of a child and to witness the apparently limitless imagination and fascination they possess. For them, day-dreaming, storytelling and spontaneous play occupy a privileged position in their lives, offering enrichmen and contentment. For an adult revisiting childhood, the occasion to think and create spontaneously, intuitively and without self-censorship can be revelatory, even life-changing. At some point as we mature, this ability to delight in serendipity and inventiveness is often lost, demoted, chided or forgotten.

Many artists, however, possess this great capacity for imagination and invite us into the fantastic and eccentric worlds that they conjure in their art. This comparison in not intended to diminish artists' creative practice to ‘child's play’. On the contrary, there is a high level of discipline, dedication and practice required to be a professional artist, and whimsical or playful artworks often belie the painstaking labours required to produce them. Regardless, artists share with children an aptitude for open-mindedness, re-presenting the world to us through another lens or transporting us into a whole new universe.

As the exhibition title suggests, dreams, imagination and fantasy are at the heart of this show. In Your Dreams features the selected work of fifteen contemporary artists who delve into fable, folklore, mythology, alternative realities and dream worlds in their creative practice. The exhibition has been curated to engage the imagination and curiosity of children and the young-at-heart, and it seeks to provide opportunities for adults and children to have an equal and shared experience of looking at art together.

Influential art movements like Surrealism, Dada and Expressionism have obviously inspired a number of artists in the exhibition, as well as transcendental or artificial forms of consciousness, the realms of psychoanalysis and dream symbology. Some works invoke nonsensical, absurd and hallucinogenic visions that have the potential to attract or disturb the viewer and several even verge on the nightmarish. As in many folkloric tales, appearances can be deceptive and dark undercurrents sometimes give them a number of possible interpretations. Beneath the seductive and visually appealing surface of some works are more challenging themes. Ideas of cuteness, beauty, power, control, transformation and belonging are often explored and questioned through the use of size, scale, formal and symbolic devices.

Like a dream, the imagery or symbolic language in which these works communicate to the visitor is not precise or fixed. Elements and meanings can be slippery, associative, seemingly arbitrary and often surprising. Like its namesake, this exhibition invites visitors to embrace the domain of the unexpected, of intuition, uninhibited creativity and open-ended possibilities.

Whatever paths open, we hope at the end of your journey In Your Dreams will stay with you.


Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison tend to work collaboratively on creative projects using paper based forms including collage, artist books, zines, printmaking and installations. Hand assembled collage, using paper, scissors and glue is a favoured medium of the artists, but they also work with digital collage — a technique that is particularly advantageous for artist books and zines. Vintage images are often juxtaposed in Haby and Jennison's collages and artist books, which give them a nostalgic and intriguing quality. As if set in a nonsense literary world like Lewis Carrol's Wonderland, Haby and Jennison upend bizarre new scenarios. Theatrical images feature heavily in this installation, including costumes from the Ballet Russes and Victorian images of acrobats. These fantastic and carnivalesque scenes suggest a narrative, but left open-ended, remain a puzzle for the viewer to solve. Animals are recurring motifs in Haby and Jennison's work and these creatures are often giants within the frame, at odds with cities, theatres and constructed environments they inhabit. Are they inverted metaphors for human relationships with the natural world? Or, are they allegories for how we try to govern ourselves and conform to society's expectations?