An exhibition inspired by the thirteenth century Tower of London Menagerie will be held in Tower Hamlets this weekend.
The ‘Jeopardy’ exhibition, which combines architectural elements of the Tower with images of animals that had been kept there, will be displayed in the ACME Project Space, Bethnal Green, this weekend.
Explaining the inspiration behind the exhibition, artist Virginia Bradley said: “When I found out about the menagerie at the Tower, I just thought about all the people that had been held and tortured there and all the politics behind it, while the menagerie was just downstairs”
“It’s about the idea that someone might be tortured and screaming, and that a peacock might be having a shrill scream at the same time, or that a lion might roar just before you get you head cut off.”
Bradley became aware of the menagerie after becoming the Artist in Residence at the Zoological Society of London.
“When I was there I found out about the menagerie at the Tower of London and was just fascinated – many of the animals were gifts to the monarchy and they didn’t really know how to feed them or look after them properly.”
“One gift, a polar bear, ended up chained to the wall and swimming and fishing in the Thames. Really the animals there were just as much prisoners as the people locked in the Tower.”
Three other key figures in Bradley’s artwork are three infamous Tudor women who all spent time in the Tower: Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Anne Askew.
She said: “I paired Anne Boleyn with a jaguar because that is the fiercest cat in the cat family, and that seemed perfect for her, but Jane Grey – who I researched and found to be the most innocent of group – I paired with a swan, which also fitted with her long delicate neck,”
Bradley’s pieces range in scale from small sheets of paper, to vast tapestries and light boxes.
“You have to see it in real life, because it is very physical and textual and the images come in and out of focus when you look at them,” she said.
Bradley has been a practising artist for 30 years and has been exhibited in India, Spain, England and the USA.
She is currently teaching painting and drawing at the University of Delaware, Philadelphia, but plans to move to east London to start a studio next year.
You can see Bradley’s ‘Jeopardy’ exhibition at the Acme Project Space, Bonner Road, Bethnal Green, between 1pm and 6pm on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 of December.