Deadly Nightshade, one of Houchen's pieces set to be exhibited in Pandora's Box
Part of ‘Deadly Nightshade’, one of Houchen’s pieces set to be exhibited in Pandora’s Box

The work of figurative painter Amanda Houchen is both of this world and otherworldly.

Her ephemeral characters, often inspired by actresses of the 1920s and 1950s, reside in colourful dream-like settings. They gaze out and look through the viewer, as though to question our own reality.

Context is what most of us look for in a figurative painting – the meaning behind the Mona Lisa’s smile. But a recognisable context is what Houchen seeks to deny the viewer.

“I’m interested in exploring the physicality of paint,” says Houchen.

“In this body of work, through the female form, I seek to capture the nature of artifice and the uncanny.”

This month at Unit G gallery off Well Street, Houchen will be exhibiting work from her Pandora’s Box series.

The focus is on the temporary nature of performance and stardom.

A pair of flappers bedecked in pearl necklaces and fur collars gaze out mournfully, their sense of self entirely dependent on the validation they seek from the audience. But a performance can only last so long.

Houchen’s source material includes the more obscure and choreographed settings of burlesque, cabaret or the circus – where people adopt theatrical roles and there’s an element of masquerade.

These are images that have the potential to be mythical, as Houchen combines imagery or tropes from specific eras to create new, unrecognisable images that subvert the viewer’s expectations.

Pandora’s Box
8 – 30 April
Unit G, 12A Collent Street, E9 6SG

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