ON DIAMONDS & TOADS
'The Girls do not speak or move. It is as though they have been trapped here for decades in these bodies, Havisham-esque, bed ridden and beginning slightly to smell. Their faces are obscured behind red lipped rubber masks, nothing moving except the four eyes that follow the viewer around the room as if watching her every move, envious of her mobility and freedom, whilst they themselves remain locked, gazing narcissistically at their own reflections in the little mirrors that they hold up to their own faces. Long blonde hair billows out in two monstrous clouds of yellow frizz and their feet are dressed in bizarre little knitted booties. It’s a parody of feminine beauty and a metaphor for the dangers of the double edged sword of passive objectification.
Whilst I’m in the room a group of students comes in. Buoyed on the safety of the collective, one of them approaches the static scene. She holds up a map to the two rubber faces and asks the way to Palazzo Bembo. Her friends laugh. The Girls remain motionless. It’s an excruciating moment that perfectly highlights the horror of being trapped in object-hood.
Beverley Knowles (Boîte-en-Valise Venice Biennale 2013 review, FAD, 7 June 2013)
'Two intricately adorned womanly figures lay motionless in a staged tableau in a silent room in Palazzo Zenobio. Their red lips swim with seduction, until you look a moment too long, and realise those glassy eyes are real and staring back at you, and what’s more, following you around the room as if punishing you for your earlier gaze. It's terrifying. Just brilliant.'
bettydoesvenice (Venice Biennale 2013, Arts Pavilion Bournemouth review, 29 May 2013)
'(The Girls) are fitted out exquisitely in rich but soiled dresses..They wear masks with the same red-lipped plastic anonymity as a blow-up sex doll, and perhaps it is that which makes this piece so compelling and disturbing.
..the show delivers a punch like a pink satin boxing glove.'
Herbert Wright (I am a Fantasy review, FAD, 18 April 2011)
'Curator Beverley Knowles has deftly combined several of (Margaret) Harrison’s ironic gender-bending series of media icons with The Girls and their creepily and wonderfully Sherman-esque ‘static’ performances.
The Girls contribute one piece, Diamonds and Toads
(2011), an installation of a large, two-person, circular couch piece that looks like it belongs in a French boudoir. Its padded interior is a deep, luscious colour, but upon closer inspection, some of the fabric is ripped, and suddenly, it could be an extra set-piece at a funeral home, or something dirtied and discarded, left on the side of the road for garbage clean-up. When Sinclair and Blood are present, they lounge in the couch, motionless, in elaborate dresses and mannequin-like masks where their eyes eerily open and close. The masks allow them to watch viewers in a voyeuristic way, to gaze unrestrained, but their horizontal position within a gallery space equally subjects them to scrutiny. When the artists are not present, the Rococo-like couch and costumes still will be, jarringly strange in a white-cube, yet still serving to emphasize women’s ability to slip in and out of prescribed trappings of femininity like ruffles and florals and fabrics.
..both Harrison and The Girls employ well rehearsed themes of feminism like gender as a socially constructed category, the ‘putting on’ of femininity rather than something biological'
Laura Barone (I am a Fantasy review, Aesthetica Magazine, 25 April 2011)
'The Girls gazed around, at each other, into the mirrors they were holding. People gradually moved forwards, took photos. I took photos. This moving closer and photographing was an uncomfortable experience. The exhibit gazed back more than Olympia or Carmelina ever did. They watched. I started off thinking how brave they were. I ended up feeling more exposed in my voyeurism than I suspect they did in their dressing up. The act of viewing became difficult. The piece was called Diamonds and Toads
. It spoke of the grotesque, the carnivalesque, fairytales, excess, vanity, and, of course, sexuality – a string of pearls entering/issuing from the mouth, two supine women in a bed type object. But also the gaze, voyeurism, and through that, the whole canon of art in which women are looked at.
The juxtaposition of the artists was interesting; Harrison’s work ran the risk of fading into the walls beside the living extravaganza of The Girls with their watchful gaze. And yet, some of the themes were echoed: sexuality; the idea of ‘character’ – whether superhero, superstar or fairytale; dressing up. And excess – although differently explored. So despite this risk that The Girls could eclipse Harrison, somehow it worked, and each lent something to the other, each gained something from the other. The Girls gained a context – Margaret Harrison is known as a feminist artist, whose early work in shut down a 1971 exhibition in London for reasons of obscenity. They also gained a host of characters, including sexually ambiguous ones, against which to position their own. Harrison gained vitality, dynamism, excitement and utter bizarreness.'
Clare Parfree (I am a Fantasy review 19 April 2011)
'When I encountered the Girls ensconced in their satin bed I was reminded of the dusty old Sleeping Beauty waxwork automaton that used to live inside the Crooked House at Southend-on Sea until the late '70s..her chest used to rise and fall and I imagined I could see her tremble and heave with every pulse..'
Heidi Wigmore (June 2011, on Diamonds & Toads, PayneShurvell)
'This ambitious show encompasses film, photography, costume and tableau vivant, all inspired by the carnivalesque elements of the Bournemouth seaside. The results are a heady mix of the surreal, the nightmarish and the absurd..
..the waxy automaton faces of The Girls bring to mind Georges Franju’s gallic surgery-horror Les Yeux Sans Visage..
..elements of Alive For Your Pleasure feel like they might have fallen out of a fifth form goth girl’s jotter, there is plenty of virtuosity on show.'
Peter McCaughan (Alive For Your Pleasure review, Culture Northern Ireland, 17 May 2013)
'I experienced the Double Regina Experience
from art duo The Girls: a bizarre meet and greet with two versions of royalty in a well decorated marquee. Surreal enough for adults – no doubt nightmare inducing for small people. I like that The Girls have created an artistic ideology all their own.'
Amelia Gregory (Amelia's Magazine, 28 May 2012)
'English art duo The Girls exhibit Smurfette
as a Vargas model from his blue period. She is necessarily hypothermic, something exemplified by cork-like nipples on her plastic breasts.'
John Higgins (Culture Northern Ireland, 23 February 2012)
'Imagine Cecil Beaton's theatrical excess combined with the inspired imagination and DIY aesthetic of the doyenne of British colour photography of the 1930's, Madame Yevonde, and you have the wonderful rich narrative world of The Girls.'
Brett Rogers, Director, The Photographers' Gallery (2010)
'Think Angela Carter crossed with Cindy Sherman.'
Liz Hoggard (London Evening Standard, 26 April 2010)
(The Paper Eaters, Time Out London, 22 April 2010, issue 2070)
'The Girls dress as nurses or baroque courtesans, they pose in big photos staged like Jeff Wall pieces, but sillier. Life-size straw dolls in bed explore female relationships. Get into their mental bed and indulge in a strange, funny, guilty visual feast.'
Herbert Wright (In Bed With The Girls review, Le Cool London, 12 September 2008)
'..sometimes attractive, sometimes disturbing and sometimes humorous. Some of the photographs are good enough to eat, but they sufficiently highlight some of the less palatable issues about the place of women in visual culture.'
Chloe George (In Bed With The Girls review Londonist, 20 October 2008)
'Colourful and playful with a rumbling of darkness ensures childhood naivety is undercut by a dramatic and slightly haunted adult perspective. An exhibition which ensures you’ll leave slightly flustered. One not to miss.'
Tanya Geddes (In Bed With The Girls review, Amelia's Magazine, 1 September 2008)