Perfume and Savages

‘Perfume and Savages’ is a body of work exploring issues of group dynamics and social isolation. The utopian landscapes are the setting for clusters of people and solitary figures whose subtle gestures hint at a darker mood than the bright colours might suggest.
I am particularly fascinated by the subtle nuances of body language – the tilted heads, twisted bodies and small involuntary signals signifying elements of power, control, vulnerability and alienation. From the kindest of gestures to sinister acts of Machiavellian treachery I am interested in the tiny tales of growing und crumbling relationships. Groupings of individuals and lone characters suggest leaders and factions mimicking the hierarchy of the workplace, different social strata or power struggles in the boardroom.

The cast have human like bodies topped with heads of animals and birds. Using anthropomorphic beings brings an element of theatre to the paintings whilst at the same time depersonalising the characters.
The fantastical landscapes are inspired by formal public gardens such as the Italian Giardini di Boboli, the Botanical Gardens in Visby and closer to home the Arboretum, Nottingham. These landscapes create the perfect environment for games and human interaction.
The sketchbook is usually the starting point, often beginning with drawings such as direct observation in one of the parks. I have spent many years drawing people and places and much of the recent sketchbook work is about developing the characters and creating my own visual language. I never work directly from a sketchbook, preferring to rely on memory or a direct source for inspiration.
Narrative resource material is wide and varied – from Margaret Atwood’s novel, ‘Cat’s Eyes’, works by Jane Austen and TV dramas. Personal memories and historical events also provide rich pickings for little scenarios that pepper the work.
Whilst I have particular narratives in mind when creating the work, the stories are also deliberately ambiguous allowing the viewer to interpret the work for themselves.

Jackie Berridge April 2014