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Laura Ford: Beauty in the Beast

[ Exhibition )

A sculpture by Laura Ford of an abstract female figure made to look as if she has grown inside, and is trapped by, a tree trunk.

Espaliered Woman I by Laura Ford

An installation of bronze sculptures by leading British sculptor Laura Ford, featuring the uncanny imagined creatures for which she is recognised.

Using Jean Cocteau’s film Beauty and the Beast as a starting point, the installation created a link with the Gallery’s major exhibition on Christopher Wood, to whom Jean Cocteau was a close friend and influence. A related indoor display of Ford’s drawings and smaller ceramics ran in the Garden Gallery until October 2016.

Born in Cardiff in 1961, Ford studied at the Bath Academy of Art and the Chelsea College of Art. She is known for the playful quality of her work in which she creates characters that have a dark edge and blur the boundaries between animal and human expression: girls that turn into espaliered trees, animals and birds displaying human frailties and characteristics. Through these imagined and sometimes nightmarish creatures she comments on the human condition, as well as social and political issues, drawing on the influence of folk and ‘remembered and mis-remembered’ fairytales. The use of creatures in her work is also intended to make the works more approachable, making sometimes uncomfortable feelings more palatable and engaging.

The display featured her recognisable fantasy figures: Espaliered Woman 1 (2007), Lion (2014) and Behemoth (2016), which stood in conversation with the formal architecture of the courtyard and the House.

When describing her work, Ford said, ‘as soon as you step into the beast’s grounds everything comes alive and appears to be conscious. I thought it would be good to have sculptures that were of things you would expect to find in courtyards – the classical sculpture, the espaliered tree, the sculpture of a bird or lion – but to try to fill them with a consciousness and life.’

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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