Imagine, as a child, having that outlandish pantheon of make-believe characters that ran circles through your dreams and play – the denizens of your inner world (and most loyal of compatriots) – brought to life…
A recent exhibition, at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, indulged such a fantasy (or thereabouts); extracting from the most vivid of imaginations a collection of creatures, or “imaginary friends”, and transforming them into bonafide, corporeal works of art.
Each of the life-sized pieces, from a purple-maned, uncharacteristically sweet-faced lion to – of course – an 8ft-high dinosaur, was pictured by celebrated fashion and portrait photographer Rankin.
The project began in September when more than 60 children were invited to a workshop and asked to describe their imaginary pal in as much detail as possible.
Thus began a riotous journey into the all the hidden places where the wild things really reside…
The result is fascinating – and in some cases, like triclopean “Chloe” over here, a little creepy.
But the power of artistic expression is in its subjectivity, right? (A golden principle succinctly delivered via the pint-sized exhibitors’ distinctively unique brand of aesthetic, unbound by convention and freeingly untethered to what’s ‘acceptable’.)
“Children create many amazing things. Take their imaginary friends for instance,” said Arvid Harnqvist and Amar Marwaha, the creative team behind transforming kids’ ideas into reality. “They are talked about all the time and often become part of the family. But when the child gets older, these marvellous creations fade away. This project aims to immortalise them.”
Inherently, the project also made indelible those fleeting moments of an unfettered mind – and the belief in magic, in the impossible, in better things, made manifest.
“This was a really fun project to be involved in and it’s such a great idea,” co-creators Becky Sloan and Joseph Pellin said of the collaboration. “Hopefully bringing the imaginary friends to life won’t give the children nightmares … we’re not sure we would want to hang out with Chloe ourselves!”