Rachel Goodyear’s Muzzles, Murmurs, and Macabre Fancies

Some fairytales are not for the faint of heart. This month, Rachel Goodyear opens her enchanted chest of drawings for an exhibition of new works on paper at London’s Pippy Houldsworth Gallery. Goodyear invites us into her fantastical universe, populated by troupes of thin-limbed girls, masked men, otherworldly creatures, and grisly beasts, still tenderly wrought, now working on a greater scale than in her previous works.

If Goodyear’s works are whimsical, they are never devoid of menace. Her drawings, rendered here in black pencil on expansive white ground, are punctuated by ribbons and small sprays of blood-red wash that heighten the drama and deepen the sense of foreboding. Space is barely delineated but compositions, such as Lassos (2014) and Ghosts (2014), are framed by spindly trees, on and around which figures perch, teeter, twirl, dangle, and sometimes fall. In Stretches (2014) a blindfolded woman, in the act of performing a casual backward leg extension, seems unaware that she has struck a bear directly behind her. Goodyear denies the viewer any moral lessons, but the thrill and unease that infiltrate her work offer a cautionary tale. You never know what dangers could be lurking just out of sight.

“Muzzles and Murmurs” displays some of Goodyear’s largest works-on-paper to date, allowing her intricate renderings to breathe and flourish. They are accompanied by smaller case studies, which feature detailed extractions of her larger drawings. Together the exhibition forms a cohesive body of work, a kind of deeply personal and surprisingly elaborate idioglossia—the idiosyncratic languages often invented by children. The viewer arrives as if entering an unsettling dream, where nothing is logical, but suddenly everything makes sense.

Rachel Goodyear: Muzzles and Murmurs” is on view at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, June 6th–July 5th, 2014.

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