Myths, Memories and Mentiras

Lisa Gingles uses collage and pencil to explore issues of beauty with a fantastical exhibition at the Waterfront Hall

As a daughter of artist Graham Gingles, it will come as no surprise that Lisa Gingles’ work is both enthralling and bewitching. Her latest exhibition, Myths, Memories and Mentiras, at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, consists of 31 framed images that recall fairytales, ancient folklore and sometimes mentiras (lies, in Spanish).

Having studied fine art at the University of Ulster in Belfast before moving to Valencia in the late 1990s, Gingles’ work has been showcased in Ireland, the UK and Spain. It is easy to see why: her art takes viewers on interesting and enchanting journeys into the imagination.

In the past, Gingles has worked in a variety of mediums including paint, print, sculpture and photography. Now, as proud owner of a clothes boutique in Valencia, she has learned to love small pencil drawings and collage – neater than her previous work, these pieces are no less effective in portraying her unique subject matter.

This exhibition features old book covers, pieces of fabric and ripped pages as a base; Gingles’ inspiration, it seems, comes from published images. Some of these she has found in books and magazines, others are from the Internet. They each have their own story to tell.

In many of the works, text is used as a background for the overlaid image, but in others the images come first, each with appropriate titles. So the figure of a woman with a swan's head is 'Transformación', while the magnified image of a butterfly with text appearing underneath is 'Experimento III'. 

Hanging in the spacious and bright second floor Waterfront Hall Gallery, the images are eerily eye-catching, waiting for passers-by to stop and analyse them. Some of the images are linked, but many do not appear to be connected – we are to view them as a stand-alone pieces, it seems.

Many of the scenarios that Gingles presents us with are intriguingly peculiar, focusing on menacing and mythological creatures, metamophosed individuals, strange juxtpositions. One image, for example, shows the figure of a lady dressed in a pretty a-line dress but with an elephant’s head, complete with tusks. Another shows a Zebra’s head transposed onto a petite female body, dressed in a swimming costume. 

One of the more menacing images depicts a dark-haired young girl sat on the ground holding some black balloons. Her face is blanked out so that the viewer is forced to imagine what that particular moment means to her, whether it is celebration or sadness.

By omitting expression from the faces of her subjects, Gingles’ encourages viewers to imagine the story behind them, to become involved, to flesh out the scenarios and come to conclusions about what they might mean, and how they might be resolved. Escapism and folklore are at the heart of her work, but there are deeper contemporary issues also at play here, of body image, perceived beauty and media representation of the human form in the 21st century. It makes for fascinating viewing, and very strange dreams thereafter.

Myths, Memories and Mentiras runs at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast until February 1. It is recommended that those visiting specifically to view the art works should call in advance to check opening hours. Visit the Water Hall website for more information.