Rook Lane Blog

After a busy day of ladder-climbing, scalpel-wielding, frame-hanging and plinth-painting – The Secret Staircase exhibition was hung, arranged, laid out and ready for the opening night.

Artist Caroline Isgar and author Michele Roberts initially displayed The Secret Staircase exhibition in London’s Foundling Museum. They used tokens that had been left with babies by their mothers, which are displayed in the museum, as the initial inspiration – then began examining the mother/daughter relationship.

As well as the tokens, Caroline used mythology, folklore and fairy tales to inspire illustrations laden with animals and cutlery, doodles and writing exercises. Michele re-wrote traditional nursery rhymes and produced first-person narratives – from the daughter’s perspective, as she addresses her mother.

They worked together at every stage of the process – aiding and advising each other – so that the literature and visual art became seamlessly merged.

Below are a handful of photographs taken by Richard Ridout – private-view-photographer-extraordinaire…

John Payne immerses himself in the short stories:

Revellers huddle around the woodcut table, designed by Caroline, as she discusses the original elm refectory table at the Foundling Museum, the source of her inspiration, which had been carved into by foundlings. The table acts as a wonderful centre piece for the exhibition – and all evening people where gathered around it – as if at a dinner party:

Close-up of table:

Michele explains the contents of the old school desks – sketches, floral paper, handwritten notes, buttons…

The artist’s book:

Three ladies transfixed by the humorous, sinister, emotive accounts:

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