Retold – what Grimm tales lurk in artist's brushstrokes?

20 July 2015

A solo exhibition featuring large-scale painted works on paper inspired by the Brothers Grimm opens at Toi Pōneke Gallery on 7 August.

The Golden Bird by Rebecca Holden

The Golden Bird by Rebecca Holden


Retold is part of artist Rebecca Holden’s larger artistic undertaking, The Grimm Project. As in the well-known fairy tales, themes of right and wrong, good and tyranny are woven into her artistic practice. Visitors to the exhibition are invited into the narrative through the combination of different painterly techniques, from sketchy drawings to overlapping layers of thickly painted colour.

A series of chance encounters formed the impetus behind this project – the discovery of the Brothers Grimm museum in Kassel, Germany; an unexpected visit to their gravesite in Schöneberg, Berlin; a chance introduction a year or so later to Phillip Pullman's collection of fairy tales, Grimms’ Tales for Young and Old. These encounters fuelled what Holden called The Grimm Project and led to the creation of a group of painted works that interpret tales from Pullman's collection.

For these works, Holden wanted to further encourage the idea of chance, which was so instrumental in the project’s inception. Via social media she invited others to give her two things: a number between a given range and a photo of a favourite landscape. Holden used the number supplied to select a tale from the corresponding page in Pullman's book, which she would then visually interpret through painting. The landscape photo given was used to influence her colour palette.

“This compelled me to work outside of my favoured palette and be more experimental with the use of colour,” explains Holden. “Rather than simply illustrating the main plot of the stories, I felt I wanted to be receptive to the elements of the story that most strongly resonated with me, those that appealed (or appalled), and to allow for everyday influences to weave their way through.”

Holden graduated with an MFA from Massey University Wellington in 2013. Retold is her second solo exhibition, following Sand in the Apricot Jam in 2014. This exhibition of large-scale paintings, which commemorates World War I, will be touring to the National Army Museum in Waiouru in 2016 and the Waikato Museum in 2017.

An exciting addition to the exhibition is a performance by Kenneth Männchen. Kenneth modelled as “the fox” for Holden’s painting The Golden Bird, and will take on this role again at 12 noon on Saturday 8 August as part of Toi Pōneke’s 10th birthday celebrations. Find out more about what’s going on at Toi Pōneke by liking their Facebook page.

Key dates:

Retold runs 7 to 29 August 2015 at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street.

Performance by Kenneth Männchen 12 noon, Saturday 8 August