Somerset House art show revisits the past 50 years through the prism of horror

Somerset House art show revisits the past 50 years through the prism of horror

Somerset House art show revisits the past 50 years through the prism of horror

Whether you’re a fan of the horror genre or not, the ideas contained within have had a profound impact on the last 50 years of creative rebellion. At least that’s the theory set out in a new exhibition being hosted by London’s Somerset House.

Horror Show!: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain is co-curated by BAFTA-nominated filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, and Somerset House senior curator Claire Catterale, looking beyond horror as a genre and instead interpreting it as a response to difficult times.

In this way, the last five decades of British history are recast into a story of cultural metamorphosis, told by some of our most provocative artists. From 1970s punk to modern witchcraft, the aim is to show how the anarchic alchemy of horror – the subversion, transgression and the supernatural – helps us understand the world.

With over 200 works of art and culturally significant objects, this historic show tells the story of the turbulence, unease and creative revolution at the heart of the British cultural psyche in three acts: Monster, Ghost and Witch.

Each act interprets a specific era through a classic horror archetypal lens in a series of thematically connected artworks. These are accompanied by a soundtrack featuring Bauhaus, Barry Adamson and Mica Levi.

Act One: Monster

Artworks in the first act, Monster, include Monster on a Nice Roof (1972) by punk artist Jamie Reid, which paints a visionary picture of the dark skies gathering over Britain as the unraveling of his empire draws to a close. Elsewhere, Chila Burman’s If There is No Struggle, There is no Progress: Uprising (1981) and Helen Chadwick’s Allegory of Misrule (1986) reshape social discontent and fear in the image of horror as the sociopolitical and monstrous clash.

Jamie Reid, Monster on a Beautiful Roof, 1972. © Jamie Reid.  Thanks to John Marchant Gallery



Jamie Reid, Monster on a Beautiful Roof, 1972. © Jamie Reid. Thanks to John Marchant Gallery

Harminder Judge, Self Portrait (after Kali & Gene), 2009. © Harminder Judge



Harminder Judge, Self Portrait (after Kali & Gene), 2009. © Harminder Judge

David Shrigley, I'm Dead, 2007. © David Shrigley.  Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.



David Shrigley, I’m Dead, 2007. © David Shrigley. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Also on display are Guy Peellaert’s David Bowie, Diamond Dogs (1974) and nightlife photography by Derek Ridgers. There are also modern works, including Pam Hogg’s new Exterminating Angel (2021) and art by Gareth Pugh and the late Leigh Bowery. Additionally, Noel Fielding’s Post-Viral Fatigue (2022) shows how horror images resonate in the Covid era, and a newly commissioned mural by Matilda Moors sees the walls dramatically clawed by a monstrous hand.

Act Two: Ghost

The show’s second act, Ghost, marks the shift from the 80s to the 90s and early 00s. It follows a disturbing path to the global financial crisis of 2008, at the dawn of a digital age of faceless audiences and invisible audiences. cyber wars.

Derek Jarman’s last feature and magnum opus, Blue (1993), evokes the artist’s last days, combining comforting connection with disconnection from the world, and warmth with cold, while poetically rethinking his approach to death. tells. Meanwhile, a stunning sound system by Nick Ryan illuminates the strange frequencies of an era when trance music and sampling machines emerged, turning visitors into spectators, spectacle and a ghost within the machine.

Jeremy Millar, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (The Willows), 2011. © Jeremy Millar.  Thanks to the artist.



Jeremy Millar, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (The Willows), 2011. © Jeremy Millar. Thanks to the artist.

Juno Calypso, The Honeymoon Suite, 2015. © Juno Calypso.  Thanks to the artist



Juno Calypso, The Honeymoon Suite, 2015. © Juno Calypso. Thanks to the artist

Anna Bunting - Branch, WITCH (



Anna Bunting – Branch, WITCH (“We Invoke the Culture of Heretics”), 2015. © Anna Bunting-Branch

Elsewhere, works by Jeremy Millar and Gavin disturb Turk, with a paradoxical clash of ghostly presence and absence. While Cornelia Parker’s map, scorched by a heated meteorite fragment, tells a story of the apocalypse at the end of the millennium.

Act Three: Witch

The exhibition’s third and final act, Witch, focuses on the period from the 2008 financial crash to the present. It celebrates the emergence of a younger generation and a hyper-connected community, embracing a new era of integration and equality.

Linder’s The Goddess Who has Sky as Hair (2019) and Zadie Xa’s Three Thousand and Thirty High Priestess of Pluto (2016) forgo the patriarchal occult and druidism of yesteryear in favor of new sorcery rooted in ecology and bodily autonomy .

© Jake and Dinos Chapman, Return of the Oppressed3.



© Jake and Dinos Chapman, Return of the Oppressed3.

Tim Etchells, Fade to Black.  Images courtesy of the artist © Paweł Ogrodzki



Tim Etchells, Fade to Black. Images courtesy of the artist © Paweł Ogrodzki

Derek Ridgers, Trojan & Mark At Taboo, London, 1986. © Derek Ridgers.  Courtesy of Derek Ridgers Editions.



Derek Ridgers, Trojan & Mark At Taboo, London, 1986. © Derek Ridgers. Courtesy of Derek Ridgers Editions.

Also on display are new works by Somerset House Studios artists Tyreis Holder, Col Self, Linda Stupart and Carl Gen, and Turner Prize winner Tai Shani’s The Neon Hieroglyph (2021), inspired by the story of flying witches in Italy. island of Alicudi. The sculpture, which is on display for the first time in the UK, can be seen alongside a specially commissioned audio installation from Gazelle Twin.

deep dive

Monster, Ghost and Witch culminate in immersive installations, combining new work, large-scale sculpture, fashion and sound installation, closing each chapter with a neon lyric work by Tim Etchells.

It all adds up to an intoxicating deep dive into the countercultural, mystical and eerie, with the three acts’ signature design courtesy of architects Sam Jacob Studio and Grammy-winning creative studio Barnbrook.

The horror show!  © Barnbrook;  House in Somerset (1)



The horror show! © Barnbrook; House in Somerset (1)

The Horror Show: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain will take place at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA from October 27 to February 19, 2023 (closed Mondays). Tickets cost £16.50 / £12.00 concessions. The exhibition has an accompanying program of lectures and events, details of which will be announced shortly. Visit the Somerset House website for more information.

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