'Alice in Wonderland meets Hieronymous Bosch'

BaborĂ³ exhibition by Shona Shirley MacDonald in the Town Hall Bar

A detail from 'Perplexing Perplexities' by Shona Shirley MacDonald.

A detail from 'Perplexing Perplexities' by Shona Shirley MacDonald.

VISITORS TO the Town Hall Theatre bar this week will find themselves transported to Shona Shirley MacDonald’s strange and magical otherworld of Juniper, showing as part of the Baboró International Children's Festival.

MacDonald is a Scottish artist and illustrator based in Waterford, and Juniper depicts the journey of the eponymous purple-haired girl, accompanied by a grey bear-cum-squirrel, through a mysterious, menacing realm, full of bizarre sights and creatures. It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Hieronymous Bosch; like Alice, Juniper is trying to make sense of the puzzling world she journeys through, while MacDonald has a Bosch-like flair for filling her pictures with rich detail.

The first picture in the series, ‘Emanation’ (a detail from which is below ), portrays a sort of Frankenstein lab where a glowing orb, behind which a giant blue hand looms, sends energy coursing through an assortment of pipes, tubes, flasks to a bell-jar where there’s a tiny prostrate figure who then seems to be conjured to life as Juniper. Her dress is fashioned from the pages of a book, the twisted sinewy look of her arms could perhaps also be pieces of paper.

Juniper Emanation detail

Books also mark the culmination of Juniper's journey in ‘Perplexing Perplexities’, where Juniper, her ursine buddy, and other little minions, sit amid towers of books in a domed library, pondering opened pages before them. In between they have traversed such fantabulous, dreamlike places as ‘The Field of Confounding Fruit’, ‘Pinnacle City' (below ), ‘The Lost Marshes’, ‘The Night Circus’, ‘Faerie Hall’ and ‘Tangled Throne’ all of which are rendered with the same fullness of mesmerising detail and imaginative richness of ‘Emanation’. These are images one can pore over for ages and constantly discover some fascinating new ingredient that further enhances the work.

Juniper Pinnacle City

It can only be a matter of time until some smart publisher snaps up Juniper. It would make a fantastic book. I wait impatiently for the happy day when it adorns the shelves of Charlie Byrnes.

All works in the show are mixed media archival pigment prints, each one is in a limited edition of 10. They are priced between €370 and €395. Juniper continues at the Town Hall until November 9.

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