2010 Bath Spa: Alison and the Russian puppets

Alison Shanks’ Russian travels for her 2010 Gane Trust Travel Award at Bath Spa University

Alison Shanks in Russia, 2010

In 2010 Alison used her Gane Travel Scholarship for a two week visit to Russia, where she investigated Russian puppet theatre, inspired by an interest developed on her undergraduate ceramics course in dolls and facial expression.

Alison spent time in the leading Russian puppet theatre, the Obraztsov Theatre, investigating the remarkable technical skills involved in traditional Russian puppet theatre, much of it based on Russian folk traditions. She explored Moscow’s traditional and contemporary art galleries, and relished the splendours of the Moscow Underground system. She found time to fit in a visit to St. Petersburg with its Little Theatre, and made an absorbing DVD of her experience at the Obrztsov workshops, which shows the exquisite detail and wide range of themes.

Alison is now halfway through a ceramics MA, and is creating larger than lifesize heads screen printed on porcelain:

For her current work, go to www.alisonshanks.com.

She says:

“In my practice I want to make people laugh and think. To do this, I am exploring our experience of the “grotesque” and the ‘uncanny’.

The use of the “grotesque” produces a kind of ”soul dizziness” as you do not know whether to laugh or cry. Charles Baudelaire said that the essence of laughter in the grotesque hinges on four interrelated pairings, “humour and terror, innocence and corruption, wholeness and fragmentation, the natural and unnatural.”

pictures: Alison’s work in 2010, Alison with puppets from the Obraztsov Theatre, Moscow

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