HRAFNHILDUR ARNARDÓTTIR Mirror Mirror – Children’s Art Centre @ GOMA
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This summer GOMA turns 10 and to celebrate this milestone the gallery has opened its doors and every inch of its floor and wall spaces to an eccentric, contemporary and colourful display of more than 250 works from renowned local and international artists. ‘Sugar Spin, You, ME and Everything’ is the name of this impressive collection and whilst Brisbane kids are invited to ride giant steel slides (if they are over 110cm tall), stand alongside Ron Mueck’s giant woman or stroke the teetering, gravity-defying synthetic hair landscape designed by Icelandic-born Artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir it will be the latter artist’s collaboration in the Children’s Art Centre that will allow them to explore their own artistic creativity the most.
Running until April 17, “Mirror Mirror” has been created by Arnardóttir (aka Shoppy) and brings together both her love of creating art using synthetic hair and her belief that our own hairstyles are one of our greatest forms of personal expression and creativity. With that in mind, Shoppy has created an impressive space where children are encouraged not just to explore the way they style their hair but also to be confident in the way they present themselves and this expression to the world.
Although it is almost hidden near the back of the gallery, the Children’s Art Centre is definitely not hard to miss. I took two of my children along to see the main gallery exhibition first but it was not long before we were all drawn towards the purple hued, mirrored walls of the Art Centre’s entrance. Indeed, as soon as you walk inside the long corridor that is its home it is like stepping out of one world and into another.
In stark contrast to the white walls and spaces of the main gallery, Shoppy’s Mirror Mirror room is covered from floor to ceiling with explosions of colour. Wallpapered with prints from her own vibrant artwork the space is a sensory feast for children as random pony tails hang enticingly down one wall and oddly shaped, layered mirrors adorn the other. Oversized, fur-covered lampshades dangle above three low tables that are generously spaced in a way that cleverly caters for curious little bodies which, after walking politely through the main gallery, are eager to move around more freely.
As soon as we entered the room my children were immediately off in an excited flurry of exploration of all that was on offer. Once they had completed a lap of the room, climbed the small stage, admired themselves in the mirrors and stroked the rope ponytails a few times they naturally gravitated over to the round tables in the centre. This was met with many squeals of delight as they discovered these were laden with all elements of craft goodness and they sat quickly and reached eagerly for the scissors, glue and papers. Before long they realised it might help to know what they were for and we discovered a row of different coloured wig cutouts beckoning us from the wall.
For this activity Shoppy encouraged children to first choose a wig colour and shape that appealed to them and then take it back to the craft table to make it uniquely their own. With instruction sheets that presented them with some different techniques they might like to use, kids are then left to cut, paste and create to their hearts content.
Both of my children loved this activity and if we had allowed for more time there I am sure would have spent a good hour each on their design. My son (aged 2) mostly just loved cutting and pasting whilst my 5 year old daughter (who is a lover of all things fashion) decided she wanted more time and more materials to complete the vision she had in mind. Therefore, she decided she would assist her brother in making his and take hers home where she could gather more elements for it. She did trial the different recommended techniques and was more than happy to model his creations home as well.
A Positive Spin on Vanity
In many of Shoppy’s works she explores the idea of vanity, however, unlike most people she does so with a more positive perspective of it. She has said that she believes “the most beautiful element in the world is the pure desire to decorate and beautify yourself” and it is for this reason that Mirror Mirror got its name. Once their wigs are complete and fastened with the provided headband children are able to admire their creation in the many mirrors surrounding the space and from the stages that are erected at each end. My children were at first captivated by their changed appearance in the mirror and then, understandably, laughed hysterically at the result.
The final element within the room, and the one that my daughter loved the most, was the colourful rope strand ponytails that were suspended against the wall. Designed to entice little hands to reach out, feel them, pull them and weave them creatively, this was where she would have happily spent most of her afternoon plaiting, twirling and experimenting with new styles. Being the mother to two girls, I might also admit now to honing some of my hairstyle skills on that wall and my young son just continued his love of pulling and fluffing the tails out from their roots.
The Children’s Art Gallery is well known for its immersive and interactive activities that are created specifically for kids and linked to the current exhibitions displayed within GOMA. Once again, with Mirror Mirror, they have managed to do that perfectly with a sensory-driven activity which gently unleashes our children’s imagination and encourages their creative hearts through participatory play.
My young children both really enjoyed this but I noticed many older kids (some teenagers even) spending a great deal of time and attention on the design of their wigs. I would recommend, if you are also hoping to check out Sugar Spin, You, ME and Everything, that you do that first and finish up in the Children’s Art Centre. This space is perfect for letting little bodies unwind and release some energy as well as get creative. My two were both pretty excitable by the end and so it was perfect to finish our GOMA visit here and then head outside into the open air for lunch.
BRISBANE KIDS TIPS
- The Gallery of Modern Art is in the South Bank Precinct that you can reach by walking past the Museum, via the Art Gallery and State Library.
- Entry is free.
- Parking is available immediately underneath but because it is so popular (and shares with the State Library) you will most likely need to park under the museum which is only a short walk from GOMA. Obviously there is many public transport options to the Gallery of Modern Art if you prefer to make an adventure out of the journey.
- When you walk into the Gallery of Modern Art you will be asked to store any backpacks in their cloakroom to protect artworks.
- The Children’s Art Centre is accessed by walking through the main doors of GOMA where you will be directed by their helpful staff. There are lifts for disabled access, pram users (and tired toddlers).
- The main entry of GOMA opens out onto a grassy forecourt where you could eat a packed lunch or grab a bite at a nearby cafe. The most child friendly and least fancy food options seem to be at the Museum where you can get anything from fruit through to hot chips and sandwiches.
- You could get lost in the gift shop of the Gallery of Modern Art so make sure you check it out before you leave.
- This is the ideal activity for a preschooler which will both encourage their attention to detail whilst also allowing them to move more freely than in the main GOMA exhibitions. For older kids it may prove to be a quicker activity and part of a greater South Bank experience with the nearby kids corner, Queensland Museum and of course South Bank.