Seven monologues by seven women of different ages and backgrounds form the basis for the pastel portraits created by the English artist Dawn Mellor in The Conspirators. In her thoughtfully matched text, Sibylle Berg describes with biting black humor, self-destructive women who demean themselves. The strongly exaggerated characters are named “Judith,” a reference to the provocative biblical figure that seduced Holofernes and ultimately beheaded him.
Mellor’s pictures deal with the delusional obsessions and projections of a stalker, an ex-lover or a family member. The artist slips into the role of the perverse fan, creating new tales and a new iconography for her “objets du désir.” She begins with photographs of films stars or second-rate celebrities which she mutates into portraits of grotesque zombies, bedraggled gothic punks or dubious sacred figures. Despite the drastic representational form, an absurd comic chamber of horrors emerges. Wrinkled necks, hanging breasts and sweaty armpits are zoomed in on, and in an allusion to British celebrity magazines like Ok! and Hello, are almost a model-like exaggeration presented in the style of information graphics. Pencil drawings recall the abysmal dream world of Hieronymus Bosch, suggesting an atmosphere of menace and conspiracy. Two artists, two voices; the text and pictures are self-contained, but mutually enhancing.