Stella Whalley ~ England


Tokyo Tales
By Stella Whalley
England: Design United Worldwide, 2007. Artist edition of 100.

10.5 x 9"; 96 pages. Offset printed. Illustrations from a collage of drawings, photographs, screen prints, and expressive typography. Artist Edition with Japanese silk or satin covers or flocked Japanese wallpaper patterns. Text in English with Japanese translation in a separate section. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Tokyo Tales continues Walley’s explorations of the social construction of gender. Part travel diary, part artistic sociology — or sociological art? — it plunges the reader/viewer into the kaleidoscope of contemporary Tokyo where gender, roles, and expectations bend, overlap, and re-lap.

Stella Whalley: "In the book, I travel to the dark heart of a complex society, where women dress as men to chaperone women, where gangsters loiter on street corners framed against a backdrop of the most futuristic, complex, high-ordered but chaotic city in the world. Manga, porn anime and the traditional world of the Geisha and Samurai collide in a unique collection of drawings, photographs, screen prints and paintings that is Tokyo Tales."

Steiner Liverud, curator: "Whalley's artistic practice centres around the self portrait and the issue of the gaze. Since 1998 she has built up a practice which is floating somewhere in a space between feminist and queer theory – the understanding of ‘self’ and the notions of ‘the other’; ‘Who or what is being looked at?’; ‘Who is doing the looking?’ are questions that occupy her mind and have had a strong impact on the actual shaping of Tokyo Tales.

"In Tokyo Tales Whalley freely draws inspiration from the narrative and art techniques of the 12th and 13th century scroll paintings (emakimono) and the 18th- and 19th-century woodblock prints (ukiyoe). The complexity of view points and subject matter that we are introduced to in this book also explore the ‘manga’ and the art tendency labeled ‘superflat’ found in contemporary Japan.

"When Whalley disentangles the complex nature of the gaze using self portraits, she creates a world which I would like to compare with a theatre – a theatre that consists of a front stage and a backstage. In the backstage area she masters her actions well and feels secure. Here she can be herself, free from her role on stage. However, in the front stage area she has to be self-consciously aware of the impressions she makes on others and tries to shape her actions in expected ways. The difference between back stage and front stage makes me picture patterns echoing ‘habitus,’ ‘status,’ and ‘role’ - terms used in social sciences to discuss the relationship between the individual, its actions and the way we internalise socially appropriate behaviour."

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By Stella Whalley
London, England: Sugar Pink, 1999.

23 x 24 cm"; 24 pages. Offset printed.

Marie Anne Mancio, (essay from bodysnatchers): "[Stella Whalley's work] takes the form of the photographic print from performance, drawings etchings and embroideries of solitary personae in diverse settings - bedroom, clinic, bathroom, church. Whalley 'stars' in all the photographs herself so that, despite the apparent veracity of the scenarios, they are exposed as fictional constructs. This is particularly interesting in light of the subjects the photographs address - medicine, porn, religion - areas with a history of theatricality, of fiction posing as reality. Thus the viewer is invited to question the nature of representation in other contexts also - from the photographs in medical journals or textbooks to the centrefolds of pornographic magazines.

"Obviously, there is also a feminist statement inherent in Whalley's act of taking such control over the image: setting it up, performing it, photographing it, manipulating it, determining its display."

Stella Whalley: "It was some time in 1998 that I started working with self portraits. I found myself in a moment of contemplation, where I wanted to go back in time, trying to relate my thoughts to what kind of person I was as a child. At the same time somebody lent me some studio lights which meant that I could photograph myself as those characters of me as a child, re-enacting some of the experiences I had. The fact that I could use the studio lights in the privacy of my own home, meant that I could play with performance and role playing without feeling I was doing it in front of an audience. There is a difference in doing it in front of a camera just to yourself, you control the camera and the whole set up”.

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Page last update: 09.21.07


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