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Review: Strange Worlds at Royal West of England Academy

I’ve always thought that the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It’s a fabulous art gallery and it should get more attention. That’s why we jumped at the chance to attend a recent private view of the latest exhibition for local Instagramers and bloggers.

Strange Worlds explores the life, work and influences of author Angela Carter.

I must admit I knew little about the English novelist before attending the breakfast event but it was a privilege to be one of just 15 people in the grand gallery that morning to learn more. I’m happy to say that I left inspired and wanting to read one of her books at the earliest opportunity!

‘Strange’ is an understatement for some of the works on display, which were made all the more surreal by the experience of being in an almost deserted gallery before 9am.

The exhibition features art by major contemporary artists who were either directly influenced by Carter, or who explore the themes in her work. It also includes historical pieces that reflect Carter’s interest in feminism, mysticism, sexuality and fantasy.

A beautiful piece greets visitors on arrival in a form of a snow globe by sculpture Sarah Woodfine containing gorgeous pencil drawings of a fairy tale castle.

But that serene and magical scene is in sharp contrast to another vision of fairyland.

At the far end of the gallery are some rather grotesque creatures which had the Igers Bristol gang
reaching for their phones.

The Forrest Assassins is crocodile skulls, snake teeth, mouse bones and birds’ legs which are being ridden on by insects who appear to be carrying them as trophies. The piece is from the imagination of Tessa Farmer whose vision of fairies is probably as far removed from a Disney story as you can get!

But our breakfast hosts hinted that an exhibit given its own room would have the most impact and they were right!

Opening the door you’re greeted by heavy black curtains which when parted reveal The Banquet by Mexican artist Anna Maria Pacheco. In the centre of the dark room are four smirking figures sat around a table. Lying on it is a disturbed looking naked man who we assume is about to be sacrificed. Creepy or what?!

There are plenty more thought provoking exhibits that make up RWA’s Strange Worlds which means it’s the perfect excuse for you to visit the gallery for the first time or return for a repeat visit!

Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter runs at the Royal West of England Academy until 19 March.

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