Whatever happened to Julia?
Her work is full of memory, observation, pain.
A paper ruffle holding a frown like a sad pierrot. Elizabeth I. The maid-in-waiting that saw heads fly and women weep.
She’s a friend of the Tunnel Collective with Matthew Tudor, Mark Rathmell, Mandy Prowse and many more London artists. They exhibit in abandoned spaces, shifting locations, Artists, musicians, filmamkers, thinkers and chancers who come together to explore the role of the artist in what the collective call ‘this increasingly demented world’. But Julia works on her own path. She follows her own nightmares.
Julia takes the selfie to a new level of depressive observation. With a light touch, reminiscent of Dostoyevsky, or any liberatingly nihilistic emotional narrative, she records herself in bathrooms, in baths, in intimate nothingness.
Her bedclothes, her nighties are strung up, hung up trailing red ribbons, dripping cloth. Broken fireplaces have her striped torso, yes it’s her trademark stripey jumper echoing the shape of the chimney. It is as if she has fallen down and landed in this cursed, abandoned corner, an emotional echo of a once-promising life. It’s delightfully dismal.
Last year I was lucky enough to spend time at Atina, in the Apennines of Italy, with Julia and watch her work. She is an observer of things, a noticer of styles, a collector of sadness. She sees the passed glory in the faces of domesticity. The high teas with milk that has gone off a long time ago. The poignancy of a tabard.
She was a visitor to the graveyard and a whizz with papier-mâché. Creating masks and models of the Virgin Mary holding a donkey on a leash, somehow she managed to make disturbingly physical 3D sadness. Somehow she manages to get it right for Julia’s world; which is wrong, it is a world in which the self has been wronged by the outside world. Disappointment. Fretfulness. Drunkenness. Betrayal. The sick ego.
In 2017 she undertook a residency in the basement of Stephen’s House and Gardens, Finchley, where she created an installation about suburban secrets and the misery of war, inspired by the history of the building and the local area. For her title she chose the words of Virginia Woolf, about the reason why, in Mrs Dalloway, Septimus Warren Smith went to war.
Her crafted pieces were about the disasters that can visit. The death of hope. Terrible sickness. The pale light that flickers, which you almost wish would go out. Her underground museum of sadness, the ceilings hung with paper aprons, the memories of nurses, their youth submerged with broken arms, broken heads, broken men dangling in front of our imaginations in her crinkled paper creations speaking mouthlessly of untold and misremembrances. Oh Septimus. “He went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square.”
NOTE FOR COVER PHOTO: Chinese Open, ‘Embracing the Underdog’, 2018 was curated by Susan Haire with the support of the Geoff Leong Foundation and presented with The London Group and Friends. Thank you to Vanya Balogh for initiating and steering these group art events and to ARTLYST magazine for first publishing this picture of Julia Maddison’s striking piece, which, quite frankly, speaks for itself.