2010 by Elaine Wilson
Along with the launch of Elaine Wilson’s new publication Mirror at Gift Gallery are her new editions of ‘Don’t Touch!’ – delicate ceramic figures poised in the possession of a loaded gun. The figurines are haunting; several are displayed on elegant wooden plinths, rather like cake stands, while others stand in military-like lines. The contrast is acute, displaying these figurative oxymorons in ways that highlight and expose the conflicting influences within their design – quaint and decorative stands vs. regimented rows. The figures are women, beautifully and carefully crafted in shining white porcelain, decorated with delicate florals or with traditional ceramic patterns. Yet despite their cloaking of age-old decoration, these figures are far from the norm. They are frozen in a position of concentrated attack — knees bent, back arched, and arms outstretched gripping the black barrel of a gun. The figures are full of juxtaposition – the contrast of pure and white translucence holding the gleam of black, the poise of an assassin’s stance in long skirts, and a prickly feeling of determined defence within an object usually so inviting and used for decoration. The faces on these figures are particularly probing. Usually held in a simpering smile or a placid state of un-expression, here are eyes of dark intent and a drawn mouth of concentration; small and forceful faces that grow even more determined in their gentile and delicate design. Wilson’s ‘Don’t Touch!’ figures are wonderfully emotive and surprising, playing with the boundaries of expectation through material, making statements through femininity and violence. The style is not unlike O’Brien’s Ornamental (postcard 209), which manipulates porcelain to similar effect; it is an intriguing material to play with having such deep-rooted and personal connotations.