Laurie Simmons exhibition ‘Kigurumi and Dollers’ at Wilkinson Gallery in Vyner Street offers a critical observation into contemporary existence. Her photographs are both uncomfortable and alluring. The artist utilises the irresistible striking imagery of “Kigurumi”; a Japanese term for costume roll play, where a person dresses in the full body costume of a cartoon character or an animal.
Speaking of her work Laurie said; “I accidentally found this place between human and doll. I feel like I stumbled upon that with these characters. That’s a place I’ve been looking for consciously and unconsciously for a very long time.”
“Blond/ Pink Dress/ Standing in Corner” (2014) depicts a “Doller” standing against a corner of what seems like an abandoned kids room or nursery. The contrast of the pale blue broken walls with drawings of sunshine and cars against the immaculately presented latex pink dressed adult doll character is unsettling. The Doller holds her face in what could be interpreted as a body language sign of shock or worry.
Naturally Munch’s Scream comes to mind, yet, in contrast to the “Scream” painting, Laurie’s characters offer a silent scream. In her photographs the characters are still faced, hidden behind a layer of latex, yet their repressed environment and its unbearable tension of fake beauty, psychological disturbance and decay creates striking imagery.
In “ Blue Hair/Red Dress/Green Room/ Arms Up” The Doller is wearing a sexy red latex mini dress and high heel boots, her position stretching on the chair exposes a view into her private parts. There is a correlation to the “Hentai” film genres- (Japanese soft porn animation films), which yet again, emphasizes the query into 21st century culture dictated by advanced technology and the internet influence on the human sexuality. Yet, even here, where sexuality is blatantly expressed, Laurie manages to retain a subtle ambiguity. This playfulness and ambivalence to the imagery is consistent throughout the show.
Whilst “Dollers” are a niche phenomena, in Laurie’s work it is acting as a representation for modern existence: isolation, identity crisis, the reinvention of culture through the internet and impersonal communication, loneliness and the human body in times of incredible transformations.
“With Feminist art you think of the generation before me. I did try to define myself against them. I certainly owe that generation a lot for opening certain doors. I don’t want to be marginalised. I wanted to be part of a multi-sexual art world.”
Her work is psychological, political and conceptual – gift wrapped with images that on the surface seem attractive and joyful, but once unveiled reveal a sharp critical view into modern society.
Laurie Simmons: Kigurumi and Dollers is a must see show to visit. The work is well presented and leaves the viewer wanting more. This is perhaps the most thought provoking exhibition presently on view in London and certainly well worth a visit.
Words/ Photo Michal Cole © Artlyst 2014
Kigurumi and Dollers: Wilkinson Gallery 21 May – 29 June 2014