There is a real will-o’-the-wisp element to Goldfrapp’s most recent work. Ethereal, undeniably beautiful, it floats and swirls, rising with occasional menace before disappearing to leave only a lingering, dream-like impression of itself. It was useful to be treated to an acoustic showcase by the one-time electro-glam duo complete with strings in a hermetically sealed black box at the Lowry in Salford ahead of the singer’s debut as a curator.
Because even if you don’t like your pop music, polished, framed and placed alongside great works of art in a gallery, this notion of performer as curator offers an interesting opportunity to get inside the mind of an undeniably serious talent. But then again you probably don’t have to live in a gingerbread house yourself to anticipate what might have been on Goldfrapp’s mind in the making of their sixth album Tales of Us.
One of the first works in the collection is by the 19th century Mancunian folklore painter Henry Liverseege. Little Red Riding Hood depicts a scrawny wolf alongside a rosy-cheeked wanderer in the woods, huddled inside her crimson cape against the evils of the forest. Goldfrapp promises to explore the relationship between animal and human form, metamorphosis, mystery and darkness in this well thought out collection. But it is the figure of the vulnerable little girl, alone in the forest that dominates proceedings.
A large photograph by Anna Fox also provides one of the most striking images of the show. County Girls depicts a vivid pair of red high-heeled shoes attached to young female legs splayed in the grass. The wearer is either resting or something much, much worse has befallen her.
Elsewhere a whole room is given over to Revons D’Or, a large scale work by the Scottish sculptor Anya Gallaccio, in which apples dangle tantalisingly from an inverted tree - harking back again to the mid European forest myth world, this time Snow White.
There is a selection of fairy tale book illustration but perhaps the most unsettling of all are the Vivian Girl drawings from self-taught American artist Henry Darger’s posthumously discovered 15,000 page Magnus opus depicting naked children embroiled in fantastical adventures. Goldfrapp selects two films - David Lynch’s Lost Highway and the 1973 British Horror The Wicker Man (both influences that were detected by canny critics in the last album) – and a number of personal and borrowed items. The most surprising of these reveals the singer’s penchant for taxidermy, particularly stuffed owls, but also collections of tiny dogs, bears, horses and even a lock of a great aunt’s hair. Enjoyably disturbing.
To 2 March 2014