Who will write the history of tear? Artist Alice Maher has made a daring foray in capturing this seemingly endless and insurmountable task.
In her latest works on view at the Purdy Hicks Gallery she attempts to distil a variety of meaning into this universal human trait.
Her sculptures and images detail gentle innocuous themes and objects which carry hidden meanings and interpretations. The subtext of pain and hurtful emotions is conveyed in narratives which harbour both beauty and menace. Large images of women crying set amidst dark backgrounds are based on Norman statues and knights. Each one reposes in brooding tranquillity and contains nostalgic fairytale qualities.
Maher's chain mail drawings contain 3D qualities and movements and like all her creations contain at least two versions of interpretation and way of viewing. Looking at "Chaine" from a distance you see bodies connecting to each other forming a continuous flowing image. Other drawings within this theme reveal a close up composition of individual tears.
Maher is not only interested in the meaning and connotations of tears but also the shifting view points of perception and the attachment of meaning ascribed to objects. "Ombre I" displays continuous changes in meaning. At first it appears as a black hole or cave as you move closer it takes on the appearance of a woman and closer still it becomes hair. The "Necklace of Tongues" made of lambs tongues presents both a disturbing and expressive tribal image of power. This photograph may seem at odds with the other images until you realise that the tongue is a very sensitive and expressive organ connected with crying.
So, has Alice Maher written the history of tears? She has certainly created one version that is captivating and mythic in scope. Her images are imbued with subtle menace and all conveys never ending meanings.
• History of tears continues until 3rd November at the Purdy Hicks Gallery.
For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.
7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?
Read the latest issue before signing up