5 February – 6 March 1999
White Cube Duke Street
Anna Gaskell’s exhibition was inspired by the Brothers Grimm story, The Magic Donkey, a macabre tale about a girl who crafts a costume from animal hides in order to escape the advances of her father. The title ‘hide’ references the children’s game hide-and-seek, and the split personality of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and perhaps, the literal skin or hide that marks the boundary between the inside and outside, the imaginary and real, the self and other.
In this series of works, Gaskell again casts teenage girls as her protagonists, in photographs that emit a nightmarish sense of foreboding and thinly veiled violence. She employs cinematic devices such as the extreme manipulation of camera angle and depth-of-field, and exaggerated close-ups of sharply-cropped figures standing at the edge of the frame, with the action taking place in the distance, to heighten the atmospheric effect.
As well as referencing film on a technical level, Gaskell’s work also draws directly from the look or atmosphere of certain films—and from particular art works. While one image, Untitled #39 (hide) (1998), strongly recalls Mantegna’s painting Dead Christ, with its bold foreshortening of feet and legs, others echo the kind of psychological horror found in film like Carrie, Sister my Sister, All About Eve and The Exorcist. The images present female subjects that are defamiliarised—made strange—through visual distortion and the manipulation of body parts, in the style of the uncanny and surreal dolls of Hans Bellmer. In Gaskell’s work, young girls are never seen as discreet individuals, but as figures distorted, doubled or broken up, as though through a shattered looking glass.