Where’s Bonky? Laura Beaumont exhibts her macabre book and cuckoo clock artworks
PUBLISHED: 14:38 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 12 September 2019
The head writer for upbeat children’s show Fireman Sam relishes the dark side in her art which poses model railway figures in often edgy situations including the naively hopeful clown Bonky
By day Laura Beaumont is the head writer for Pontypandy's finest, Fireman Sam, devising ever more ingenious ways for him to save the town from numerous conflagrations.
By night the Hampstead resident poses model railway figures in often macabre scenarios, a pagan ritual here, an S&M orgy there.
From a cuckoo clock sprouting tentacles and swarming with "hapless Tyroleans" to her train set installation The Cut, to vignettes sliced into the pages of antiquarian books, Beaumont's artistic eye tends to veer towards the dark.
But amid the carnage of a railway wreck, a massacre at a cottage or a fetish lesson at school, is the recurring figure of Bonky the Clown.
"It came from the first ever book I created, this character holding his little balloons who wanted to make everyone happy and to heal the hurts of the world," she says.
"He always turns up at a funeral or where people are trying to commit suicide or being burnt.
"I see it as a metaphor for myself, the search for naive happiness."
Beaumont's latest exhibition Where's Bonky? places the retired owner of Bonky's Circus among crowded scenes.
"It's like Whre's Wally? You have to find him in the middle of lots of tiny people."
The show at Fitzrovia's Gallery Different will also feature the intricately detailed The Cut, several cuckoo clocks and guides dressed as her characters taking visitors on 'tours'.
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"It's semi immersive and interactive," says Beaumont.
"The Cut is full of secrets, nooks and crannies, it's not like any other train set, there's lots of strangeness; a crash, an orgy in the signal box, but when I took the trainset to the Hay Festival, people just said: 'that looks nice I used to have a railway set and moved on. I wanted to say 'no look closer' so I started doing guided tours, secret by secret, telling them the stories about what was going on. They really enjoyed being let into something."
Working in a studio at her Hampstead home, Beaumont cuts into old books to explore the subtext of human interaction.
"It's digging into the layers of a story. No-one is quite what they seem, everyone has secrets, there are layers to everyone and my book art is discovering those layers. I start with an idea then it's like taking a journey with those characters and stories, as I see words and phrases, I am digging deeper, fascinated by finding these other layers and portraying them."
The Amazing Marriage depitcs a couple on their sofa while in their basement, a bound female victim is incarcerated.
The Water Babies shows a pair rowing a boat while below the water dead babies loom. Beaumont compares herelf to Frankenstein; using a sharp instrument to bring her own creation to life by "ruthlessly slicing and combining it with the working parts of someone else's".
"It feels like a collaboration with the original writer, someimes I feel dreadful hacking into these books, but many would be lounging on shelves otherwise. I give them a new lease of life."
As for the "dark stuff" she says it's always more interesting than the light.
"On Fireman Sam we have an education adviser who says 'don't scare the kids too much' but unless there is jeopardy and we show what might happen, there won't be any tension or lessons learned - we always know he is there and will save the day, even if everyone seems doomed. But I wonder what if he didn't turn up?
"With cuckoo clocks you think about Heidi, expanses of blue skies and goat bells. That's a red rag to a bull for me, it's so perfect, I want to do something about the dark secrets of what Tyroleans get up to with their sausages and Lederhosen when their shutters are closed."
Where's Bonky? Runs Sep 13 to October 5. Gallery Different, Percy Street W1.