The Inspiration Behind the Artwork, Alice Inspired Images

Alice in Wonderland goes deep with me, when I was a child my sister had an LP record of the story with a book of the pictures. It wasn’t the Disney version but it wasn’t the original either and all the characters had American accents.  Looking back, the drawings in the book weren’t that good either, but not knowing anything different, we listened to it over and over.  I felt transported by the story.
Years later, when my sister and I were both studying at different universities (straight out of high school), we could both recite large chunks of it. When leaving a group one of us would stand up and say “You are the rudest people I have ever met, I’m leaving” a quote which Alice says when leaving the mad hatters tea party. It was years later that I discovered that this quote was not part of the original text.
Many years later my younger daughter won a book prize at primary school, it was unabridged with beautiful classical illustrations. I read it to her, and discovered the richness of the original text.
I always had a fondness for Alice I think because I have always felt like I am navigating a strange and  nonsensical world. I have often felt like some one who just didn’t get this society filled with illogical conventions, rules and judgements. Some commentators have said that Lewis Carroll was reacting against the rules and structure of Victorian England, when he wrote the book in 1865. Perhaps our current western society is  less stifling. But now the rules are not spelt out, they are implied, more difficult to know, less black and white but just as perplexing.

Carving the Lino blocks for the Understanding Alice Exhibition at the Fire Staion Print Studio in Melbourne.
Carving the Lino blocks for the Understanding Alice Exhibition at the Fire Station Print Studio in Melbourne.

Alice says what she thinks, she stands up for herself. She is curious and open to these bazaar experiences.  She is the way I aspire to be, but often fall short of.
This  year I ran a linocut workshop in Bali. In the mountains in Ubud we stayed at the Arma Resort which is traditional Balinese architecture surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens. (Click here to find out more about the next Ubud Art Workshop) You will often see the  black and white checked pattern in Bali on fabric, it is sometimes used to mark a tree to show that a spirit resides inside. In Balinese culture this pattern represents good and evil or more broadly –  opposites balanced in harmony. At the Arma Resort the paving patterned like a chess board. To me, not understanding the local cultural meaning, it was like the floor in the Alice in Wonderland images. This tropical garden, so different from the Australian Gardens I am used to, was magical and other worldly. To me it felt like the garden that Alice wished to get into but was the wrong size to get through the door.
My images of Alice and Wonderland followed. Not illustrations from the book, with its English garden, but images responding to the story as a metaphor for contemporary life. Aren’t we all trying to get into that beautiful garden? Trying to do the right thing when faced with weird and illogical challenges. And trying to understand the rules of a game which are not at all apparent.
These linocuts are inspired by the story.
Alice Exhibition at the Fire Station Print Studio in Melbourne
“Desire” Linocut for the Understanding Alice Exhibition at the Fire Station Print Studio in Melbourne

Firestation Print Studio Melbourne.
Fire Station Print Studio Melbourne. From the Outside

My Exhibition “Understanding Alice” opens on the 25th September 2015 at the Fire Station Print Studio, Armadale, Melbourne please email me for an invitation shanajames@iinet.net.au and follow this blog by entering your email on the right.