Sinister side of fairy tales probed for haunting exhibition

La lechera (the milk lady), 2015, by Sonya Hurtardo. Picture courtesy of the artist and the V&A.

La lechera (the milk lady), 2015, by Sonya Hurtardo. Picture courtesy of the artist and the V&A. - Credit: Archant

A photographer has created a series of arresting images for a show about fairy tales and the vulnerabilities of childhood.

Twelve intricately-layered digital compositions feature in Sonya Hurtado’s Tales exhibition.

Each one captures a difficult situation faced by a child within a familiar story setting.

The solo display by the Spanish-born artist opens at the V&A Museum of Childhood from next Saturday until January 8 next year.

“I have always loved fairy tales,” said Sonya about her motivation behind the exhibition.


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“We all grew up with them. When I read the stories to my kids, I try to tell them about the lesson.

“There are always dark things that happen in fairy tales. They educate children about things in life.”

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The pictures interweave imagery and narratives from tales such as Rapunzel and Alice in Wonderland as well as science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

Sonya took original photographs of children which she overlaped digitally with riotous colours and settings to make them familiar.

The pictures are small at 62cm by 62cm but they are as beautiful as they are haunting, so it’s little surprise her work has been described as surrealist by some.

Looking at The Milkmaid and Her Pail you can see why. The Aesop’s Fable tells the story of a young milkmaid contemplating the ways she will spend her earnings while on the way to market.

“She is very happy. Her dreams keep growing bigger and bigger,” said Sonya who has recreated the moment the poor girl drops her pail of milk.

In the picture, it flows away from her through a cracked lens.

“Sometimes we dream too big and our dreams vanish. That is the reality of life,” said Sonya, the moral being ‘Do not count your chickens...’.

Loneliness, fear and drudgery are also explored within Sonya’s images to show the difficult life lessons and complex emotions faced by children.

“We can’t always protect our children but we can help them to interpret their experiences in a way that helps them learn step by step to understand themselves and life,” said Sonya.

She says she hopes people will like the narrative in her work. “I want people to look at and analyse them.”

The exhibition is free to enter. Visit vam.ac.uk/moc for more.

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