Briteway Soldier, 2011, 17x12x12cm, music box assemblage
Di Holdsworth’s new assemblages explore themes of the circus. With music-boxes and hand-made mechanisms she has automated vintage toys and marionettes. The works are constructed in old boxes and tins and are reminiscent of carnival automata and arcade games from the past.
Combining circus characters with those from myths, fairytales and popular culture, the cast in Holdsworth’s assemblages includes clowns, aerialists, circus animals, mermaids, Icarus, Little Red Riding Hood, a princess, Superman and the Devil.
Holdsworth juxtaposes notions of fear, danger, desire and sexuality, against innocence, whimsy and wonder. Wind up one of her works and a clown might embrace Little Red Riding Hood or a trapeze artist might spin, dangling by one leg, from a rope above the body of Superman.
Misty, 2011, 155x35x35cm, music box assemblage
The Banking Giant, 2011, 16x9x6cm, music box assemblage
As a child my introduction to myths and fairytales was essentially through television. My gods and goddesses, heroes and villains came from old Hollywood movies and American television shows. There were heroes and villains in TV shows such as The Persuaders, The Man from Uncle, The Untouchables and Superman. There were also actors such as Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart who were continually cast by Hollywood as archetypal figures: the love goddess and the cynical but noble hero. Heroes were also to be found in American/Japanese animations such as Gigantor and Astro-Boy. I loved Astro-Boy but thought it extremely unfair that Astro-Girl could not fly and did not seem to do anything ‘brave’.
Television also brought factual narratives into my childhood. I have early memories of my mother jumping in front of the television during a News Broadcast. I did not understand what the Vietnam War was, but as I watched the look on my mother’s face and the flickering light of the television through her skirt, I knew that it was something horrific. I also watched the Moon Landing and held my breath as Neil Armstrong took his ‘giant step for mankind’ apprehensive about what might happen as he stepped onto the moon surface.
While preparing for this show I acquired many toys that were made during the 60’s based on popular culture and historical events. I have used the toys in this exhibition to create characters and new versions of classic myths and fairytales. These works often have a dark and ironic edge to them but I hope that they also convey a sense of wonder. The works are operated by hand-made mechanics and music-box movements. Turn a handle, wind the music-box, and watch a femme fatale dance or an astronaut spin into eternity….
I have vivid memories of long hot summer days when I ran wild with my brother shooting at him with a shiny silver gun that I could pull deftly from my cowgirl holster. Together he and I invented the rules of murder and death. We also spent hours under the dining table where a menagerie of plastic animals roamed and a locomotive raced murderously around its track causing certain death to any hapless animal that wondered into its path.
In this series of assemblages I have tried to evoke that time in childhood when one is able to fuse the edges of reality and play: to draw from a time when everything is possible and the discoveries of fear and death are tempered by joy and innocence. This series was created with affection and irony, often having a slightly malevolent edge. The works are constructed from vintage boxes, tins, toys, bric-a-brac, and collage. Concealed inside are music boxes and mechanical movements. Wind one of the works and listen to the music resonate as an emu dances or a ship rides a wave.