Exhibition I ‘Glitter Bunnies’
The queens of contemporary British collage combine for a glittering new show at For Arts Sake this spring
From the dreamscape glamour of Rivans’ vintage Hollywood pin-ups to Bonnie and Clyde’s ice cream-hued scenes of the urban imaginary, our spectacular new show, Glitter Bunnies, fuses the stunning and the surreal.
Rivans and Bonnie and Clyde (aka the artist Steph Burnley) share a Brighton studio and a creative aesthetic that melds the painstaking, handcrafted art of collage with mixed media and the latest digital printing techniques. Both create work that challenges surface perfection and entices us to delve deeper into fantastical, immersive worlds.
Completing the show is Amy Douglas, who re-configures (‘collages together’) broken Staffordshire figurines to create extraordinary new narratives.
“There are lots of hidden political nods, and comments on my life and how I see the world we live in today,” says Rivans. “I’m highly influenced by sci-fi, philosophy and Hitchcock. I talk about life, love, the universe and continually question what it is to be a human living in this strange physical 3D reality.”
Adds Burnley: “I like to add real-life elements that aren’t traditionally beautiful but I do find some kind of poetic beauty in them. I often use signage, symbols and words to inject some humour or political edge.”
Douglas, who started creating anarchic pieces from broken Staffordshire figurines “for my own amusement”, adds: “I just had the urge to do what one should not. Playing with scale and the wrong restoration brings a different dimension to the piece. Seamlessly done, it can trick the viewer to seem as if it were always there. It’s about making people look twice.”
The whimsical title of the show is “a little much-needed joy in weighted social and political times”, explains Burnley. Adds Rivans: “It’s apt as we all use some sort of glitter finishes in our work.”
In a light-hearted nod to the name that will delight fans of kitsch, Rivans has concealed a vintage bunny in five of her newest small original collages (see Lolita, top).
Both Rivans and Bonnie and Clyde have created new pieces exclusively for the exhibition. Maria’s James Jean (below) is a giclée and screenprint with diamond dust, silver ink and spot varnish.
Depicting Hollywood stars James Dean and Jean Simmons, each of the first 12 prints of the edition of 60 features a different coloured central crystal – signifying the colours of each of the 12 birthstones, from garnet in January to blue topaz in December.
The pair sport Rivans’ signature headdresses like exotic crowns, saturated with the technicolour tones of 1950s cinema. In Rivans’ vision they represent a bold and beautiful exploration of our relationships, with lovers, friends, fellow humans, the world, and also with ourselves.
Beneath the surface ‘Hollywood couple’ aesthetic, the print prods at gendered assumptions. “It reminds us that we are all a delicate balance of masculinity and femininity,” adds Rivans. So Mae West appears, nestled among the foliage wearing her gender-defying man suit, while the bridge of children that connects the headpieces “draws the pair together and represents the tug-of-war that defines our sense of self”.
Rivans’ ‘pin-up’ pieces loom large in Glitter Bunnies, but alongside them will be a number of landscape and 3D box pieces, including Rushmore, below.
The new Bonnie and Clyde giclée, silkscreen and glazes work Lesson 1, Happiness (edition of 60, below) will also launch at the exhibition.
“It’s a composite piece with photographs taken in Santa Monica, LA, Liverpool and Vancouver predominantly. It was made against the political backdrop of the UK’s Brexit crisis and is a piece about home, love, peace, security and belonging with a large dose of escapism,” says Burnley.
Other highlights from the artist include the new “good vibe” limited edition print Welcome Home (silkscreen and giclée, below) and the original mixed media collage This Place, which fuses elemental landscape imagery from Lanzarote to LA, with a female figure at its centre gazing out – a “meditative musing on our ephemeral connections with the world around us”.
Burnley was inspired to learn screenprinting on paper after seeing an exhibition of Basquiat works. She later began to pair the process with collage and, fused with her passion for travel and photography, her unique mixed media aesthetic was born. Employing collage, photography, paint and print, with blocks of saturated colour, her work creates a visual narrative of the contemporary metropolis and the individual within it.
Notable solo shows include 45 Park Lane, Mayfair and Lawrence Alkin Gallery, as well as the Leeds College of Art group exhibition Subterraneans, where her pieces were shown alongside artists Kim Gordon, Yoko Ono and Gavin Turk.
Rivans came to printmaking after working as a jewellery designer and moving from intricate metalwork to collage. “I love the challenge of cutting images out that are difficult and time consuming,” she says. “Because of the labour intensive process I use, the original collages are quite expensive so I began to make screenprints for the people who loved my work but just couldn’t afford to buy an original.
“I fell in love with the printing process and the prints quickly became a very important part of my art practice.”
She begins by collecting vintage ephemera, from antique books and retro magazines. Then comes the intense process of intricately cutting and assembling, until the artwork begins to take shape. Her works are in constant dialogue with cultures of the past, reinventing films and narratives, reclaiming iconic femininity and interrogating 1950s utopian ideals in the context of modern consumerism.
“I grew up watching the old black and white films so the Hollywood stars have always been in my life,” she adds. “They’re like old friends and have inspired my life in many ways. Especially the strong female characters that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford played, they encouraged me to be independent and adventurous.”
Rivans has exhibited internationally, including solo shows at the Saatchi Gallery and Galerie Bhak, Seoul. Key inspirations include artists Max Ernst, Frida Kahlo, Sarah Lucas and Richard Hamilton, as well as futuristic and fantasy TV series such as Star Trek, The Planet of the Apes and The Singing Ringing Tree.
Amy Douglas trained in the Decorative Arts at City and Guilds of London Art School and has an MA in printmaking from Camberwell College of Art.
She specialises in gilding, restoring and conserving ceramics and other objets d’art, with clients including Shakespeare’s Globe and the English National Opera. As an artist, she engages in the art of ‘salmagundi’ – from the Middle French word meaning ‘hotchpotch’. She restores and reworks broken Staffordshire flatback figures (typically made without decoration on the back, and placed against a wall or chimneybreast in Victorian houses) creating her own surreal narrative.
All three artists will be in the gallery on Saturday 4 May for a unique ‘Meet the Artists’ event. Don’t miss the chance to view this exciting new exhibition and find out more about the fascinating impulses and techniques behind their work. Join us from 2-5pm, over drinks and snacks. Please email [email protected] to register your interest.
View: Maria Rivans 3D collage in boxes, Original collages and screenprints catalogue
View: Bonnie and Clyde Mixed media collages and screenprints catalogue
View: Amy Douglas Decorative Art and Restored ceramics catalogue
‘Glitter Bunnies’, For Arts Sake, May 2-26, 45 Bond Street, Ealing, W5 5AS, Mon-Fri, 10am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-5pm; ‘Meet the Artists – Maria Rivans & Bonnie and Clyde’, Saturday 4 May, 2-5pm. Email [email protected] for more information on the works available and to RSVP to our ‘Meet the Artist’ event.
Words: Alexa Baracaia