SMALL WONDERS: HOW LAURA CARVES OUT STORIES

TINY plastic figures playing out scenes in the guts of carved-out antique books may sound cosy but Laura Beaumont’s fantastical, often twisted, creations – on show at Burgh House this week – are sure to make you do a double take.

By day Hampstead resident Laura is an Emmy-award winning children’s writer and has written for the likes of Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine.

By night, she takes her scalpel “ruthlessly” (her word) to books she has bought from secondhand bookshops and charity shops and begins her dissection. She hollows the books out on a specific page that informs the scene that she is about to create and then lets her imagination run riot. 

Funny, sometimes raunchy, but always surprising, Laura’s work is a delight to behold. 

Like mini vignettes taking place within what is a kind of proscenium arch, the plastic figures often cheekily subvert their often quaint titles and turn them on their head. 

Take The New Mistress at the Chalet School: this new mistress is more inclined to crack the whip than a cane and has a definite penchant for leather. You get the picture. 

Or how about the book, Insects? A rather professorial bug sits at its desk typing away presumably on the subject of insects while the floor is strewn with discarded drafts. Is the insect writing the book we are looking at? Are we staring at a work in progress? Is the insect having the last laugh? It is all up to you to read between the lines.

Laura Beaumont: Bleed Between the Lines runs until Sunday, January 15, at Burgh House, New End Square, NW3 1LT. Open 12-5pm (closed Saturday), 020 7431 0144, www.burghhouse.org.uk, www.laurabeaumontartistcom


Walk into Laura Beaumont’s house and it feels like entering a magical wonderland of Disney memorabilia, Americana, mid-century furniture and sparkly Christmas decorations.

“I was trying to put up the Christmas lights” she says, “It’s always difficult to know which ones are coming down after Christmas and which ones were already there!”. 

The Hampstead artist grew up loving the work of surrealists like Dalì and Magritte, but says her tastes have changed a lot over the years.

But she would still go back and see all the exhibitions that have inspired her - from Norman Rockwell’s illustrations to Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers.

She admits she has always been drawn to artists who make good use of small details. 

“I know a lot of people who would look at a Rothko and think ‘that’s amazing’, but I’d say ‘It’s red. There are no details, what’s the point? I don’t get it!’, but that’s just my absolute personal taste.”

Beaumont’s own work is full of small details, so small you might need a magnifying glass to see them all in her book sculptures which form part of the Bleed Between The Lines exhibition at Burgh House Museum this month.

Beaumont finds the most peculiar books with a “non-specific” title, usually in Oxfam bookshops, and transforms them into sculptures of stories-within-the-story. 

“There’s a process I go through. Once I find the book I have to read it. I need to find the right words to frame the picture so I have to go through it by making templates of what I want to show and putting those templates on every page to see if the word will work with the image. It’s quite a long process.”

“Dark and funny” is the recurrent theme in her artwork and she feels a bit like Frankenstein when she takes a book written by someone else and combines it with her little plastic figures,

“It’s a collaboration”, she tells me, “I have been writing for years and when you write you collaborate, it’s never really you on your own, usually there is a publisher, there is an editor, you normally have to learn to collaborate with people and this enhances what you do a lot of the time. I feel it’s like me and whoever the author is, are collaborating on the piece, and that’s a part of it that I really enjoy.”

She feels bad about cutting into beautiful books: “The whole thing is kind of visceral, I think, I’m getting these beautiful books and sometimes you can only find one of them, and I’m slicing into them for my own gratification, for my art, and this is like the bleeding between the lines. I do feel very guilty.”

To compensate, she always takes a photo of the dedications she finds in the books and places it at the top of each artwork:

“So that whoever owned it and loved it, is honoured in some way, in my way!”

Bleed Between The Lines runs at the Burgh House Museum, Peggy Jay Gallery, from January 12 to 15.



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