"An air of anticipation came to town when men wielding buckets of paste and long-handled brushes, pasted huge, bright sideshow posters… Boys and girls stood before them and gawked, as they inhaled the pungent smell of fresh paste."
Simone Anderson presents a mixed media carnival of nostalgic works, wittily revealing the connected inner reality lurking between the outward veneer of freaks, human marvels and oddities.
Alternately literal and conceptual, drawing on familiar religious or pagan signposts, these works reconstruct ideals of what is considered safe in a world full of sideshows. Anderson’s unique perspective on life emphasises the fine line between grisly phenomena, and the freakish dark nature of things.
The carnival, like religion, uses illusion to deceive the public as it promises stupendous, superhuman acts. Yet as we are lured into the fair our innermost fantasies are played out by flamboyant, peculiar characters. Life really happens in the shady alleyways between the caravans of the carnival.
Sideshow Emporium is a realm where macabre games, nursery rhymes and anthropomorphised animals are particularly disturbing. ‘Snakes and Ladders’ explores moral indoctrination - the genteel ethos of vices and virtues. 'Mr. Panties’, the malevolent jolly monkey wound up to scare children. ‘Punch and Judy’ unpacks a neo-Victorian exposition of the poster-child nuclear family. ‘Virgin Ink’ juxtaposes tattooism and Roman Catholic worship to explore female veneration. ‘Our Lady of Fortune’ – The ultimate Siren fairground attraction, marrying gypsy with circo-pagan ritual. “I like to use encrypted messages amidst the text and backgrounds,” says Anderson. “Rich, lush colours create patina and atmosphere; a feeling of deterioration.”
The ‘freak show’ of common memory is the squalid carnival affair full of obvious fakery and cheap sensation. Much like our society, it shows up anyone not fitting the narrow definition of ‘normal’. These 'others' tend to be categorically rejected, treated with mistrust and loathing. Anderson toys with these characters contemplating the suggestion that true monstrosities lurk in packages of exquisite beauty. These sensational tawdry icons do not include clowns – Anderson has a primal abhorrence to them, finding them sinister and shuddersome. Anything else is possible.