The artwork of the Painter Lady is as eerie and detailed as Hieronymus Bosch, full of hidden gems that have you peering into the trailing brushstrokes with a wary, if intrigued, eye. The haunted house on a “Prospect Hill” looks out over a forest full of ghosts and miniature atrocities. A witch flies naked in the sky where a ritual sacrifice is carried out next to a winding path into the cemetery. Will you end up worshiping the wicker woman, or follow the route to the children jumping rope? Either way, a new facet will be revealed on your journey, if you take the time to look.
Suddenly, you’re immersed in the world of Candice Tripp.
A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Candice Tripp pursued her dreams of studying fashion by running away to London. While bartending to make ends meet and painting on the side as a way to strengthen her university application, Tripp fell into one of those networked opportunities that only a friend of a friend could create. After her first exhibition, her career took off in a much different direction than she’d anticipated —a move that would transform a fashionista hopeful into the Painter Lady.
Tripp’s paintings are fairytales where the swirling borders are imaginative moments glimpsed through a magic mirror or crystal ball. Yet we all know those stories were much darker once upon a time. Tripp brings that macabre magic to the forefront, creating a world where children are marked with inquisitive innocence, yet commit terrible deeds. Each piece teeters on the edge of decision: what will the consequences be, what will the subjects do, what’s going to happen next?
“I used to paint loads of negative space because I like the idea of everything surrounding the characters being uncertain. I think the woods are a perfect substitute, while still having a visual presence. It’s a lot of nothing that can contain endless possibilities.”
The negative space around and between the subjects emphasizes the sense of size and tension. Tripp plays with this idea by evoking a childish sense of self-centered largeness in a world where the child may indeed be very small. Where a child might pick apart an ant or grasshopper in Aesop, in Tripp, the subject dismembers and eats tiny humanoid tree-creatures. Masks of bears, bunnies, foxes, and crows hide the children’s faces, but without the disguise, the children have blue, amorphous faces. Unknown rituals are performed with near-zealous dedication à la Lord of the Flies, exhibiting an alien, delightful, and perplexing knowledge that sometimes makes children frightening. Each piece embodies a sense of stoic childhood justice, showing how the young navigate through the murky and incredibly mature waters of friendship, animosity, and self-destructive tendencies armed with inexperience.
Perhaps that is the crux of Tripp’s horror. Innocence persists, but within that innocence lies a terrible ignorance.
“While I was painting, I kept thinking about a small town full of young, isolated inhabitants and how every place, to a degree, has ‘a way’ of doing things, a way which is rarely interrupted until an outsider witnesses and draws attention to it. I found myself thinking a lot about an interruption of consciousness – in the sense of it occurring in a group. I tend to paint a fraction of a story—often either prelude or aftermath – and so I ended up focusing on fictitious (often awkward social) scenarios occurring in a town that is unaware of its single-minded lapse in judgement. Cult-like. The idea being that children who don’t outgrow it, will fall victim to it.”
While the title of the Painter Lady indicates Candice Tripp sticks to oils, the case is pleasingly not true. Tripp has her hands in many pots, from creating her unique Sally dolls to small-plate etchings and her Houses of Horror series. Tripp has also gone back to her fashion roots by creating unique scarves.
Black Rat Projects, a gallery dedicated to unusual art, hosted two exhibitions of Candice Tripp’s work in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, Tripp collaborated with Giles Walker to create the “I’m Never Shopping Here Again” exhibition, which focused on movement, three-dimensional art, and shadow. If that isn’t enough, Tripp provided cover artwork for Donnie Darko’s fifteenth anniversary, once again proving with her success and clear passion for her art that even if a journey is frightening, you never know what waits on the other side of the haunted forest.
“Candice Tripp Biography.” Black Rat Projects. http://www.blackratprojects.com/artists/candice-tripp. 23 March 2017.
“Artist Profile—Candice Tripp.” Living North. September 2014. http://www.livingnorth.com/northeast/arts-whats/artist-profile-candice-tripp. 24 March 2017.