Snapshots of the Apocalypse – New Book of Dark, Quirky Short Stories.

How exciting that my first book of short fiction, Snapshots of the Apocalypse, is being published by Fly on the Wall Press in January 2022. It’s now on preorder from my lovely publisher here.

‘In these dark, witty short stories, Katy Wimhurst creates off-kilter worlds which illuminate our own. Here, knitting might cancel Armageddon. A winged being yearns to be an archaeologist. Readers are sucked into a post-apocalyptic London where the different rains are named after former politicians. An enchanted garden grows in a rented flat. Magical realism meets dystopia, with a refreshing twist.’



Some praise:

An iridescent, compelling collection. Darkly magical in all the right ways.’- Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch and Speak Gigantular

‘Tales of the unexpected… a refreshing and humorous collection illuminating the author’s vast imagination and gift for merging people, place and politics in well crafted stories. Wimhurst’s cultural allusions and social commentary might make you laugh or glance sideways, but there are always sparks of human hope amongst the dystopian debris. One ticket here please, open return.’- Emma Kittle-Pey, author of Gold Adornments and Fat Maggie.

‘Katy Wimhurst finds hope in dystopias; colour in the bleakest of worlds. Her art is in combining charming whimsy with weighty social issues and, in the balance, delighting and surprising her reader. Her rich imagination and fresh, clean writing is, at all times, a pleasure.’- Petra McQueen, founder of The Writers’ Company

‘These are fresh and exciting pieces, and I loved the sense of these unsettling off-kilter worlds, reminiscent of M John Harrison’s You Should Come With Me Now (Comma Press). I think readers will enjoy the author’s skilful balance of wit and playfulness with dark and frightening things; magical realism with a melancholy and often chilling twist.’- Anna Vaught, author of Saving Lucia and Famished.

‘Katy Wimhurst’s stories are enchanting. They appear beguilingly simple yet contain layers of meaning and mystery. Although often comical, each story has a hidden steel core – an environmental message that we need to cherish our planet and be compassionate to one another. She specialises in dystopias – in societies overwhelmed by the threats we fear – but even here the endings sound a positive note. We remain enchanted.’ – Dorothy Schwarz, author of Behind a Glass Wall and Simple Stories about Women.

Buy it Here

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News about my new book, Snapshots of the Apocalypse

A lot happening last week. The zoom launch of my book of dark, quirky short fiction, Snapshots of the Apocalypse by Fly on the Wall Press. The Leicester University Creative Writing blog kindly featured the book here. My essay ‘Fabulous Fiction in an Era of Falsehoods’, which mentioned the book in a broader discussion of the importance of speculative fiction, was published at Nothing in the Rulebook here.

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Colchester WriteNight Anthology 2021

Colchester WriteNight, a group of local Essex writers, meet regularly (including online during the pandemic) to discuss writerly things, inspire each other with writing exercises, and eat too many biscuits. Recently, they launched their ‘Open Book’ of tales, which celebrates 10 years of their existence and includes vignettes and stories conjured up during lockdown 2020. 

‘From goats and Rollers to gallery nudes, pork scratchings and the increasingly elusive Willow Wiffle, these stories will make you laugh, cry and shudder.’ It features a wide range of voices and genres. The gifted A L Kennedy has written the introduction and the book is edited by the combined creative talents of Sue Dawes and Emma Kittle-Pey. My story in it, ‘Ms Wiffle’s Open Book’, is about a book that inadvertently engenders fist fights in a sleepy village.

The collection also features stories by Sarah Armstrong, Sarah Bates Kendrick, Annie Bell, Penny Benedetti, Helen Chambers, Tim Gardiner, Phil Hurst, Wendy James, Jonathan King, Toni Peers, Mary Pullen Deacon, Clare Shaw, Doug Smith, and Alice Violett.

On Saturday 27th November 2022 there will be a launch at Colchester library 2-5pm. Unfortunately I can’t attend due to health constraints but it is sure to be a good event with plenty of story reading, fun, and mask wearing. You can book to attend the event here.

You can buy the book here published by Patrician Press.

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A Bestiary of Short Fiction: Interview with David Hartley

I was privileged recently to interview (via email) Dr David Hartley, author of Fauna (Fly on the Wall Press) and Incorcisms (Arachne Press), for 3am Magazine. He writes ‘strange fictions about strange things for strange people’. We talked vegan noir fiction, Jurassic Park, autism, Kafka, cockroaches, and purple prose. Read the interview, ‘A Bestiary of Short Fiction’, here.

You can find out more about David Hartley on his website here.

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Blown Away: the Sculpture of Penny Hardy

Metal is often seen as cold, hard and inert, but one artist has found a way to adapt the material so it appears loose, alive and free. British artist Penny Hardy makes life-sized human sculptures from discarded metal, each one exploring an emotion or experience. These are installed in open-air settings, in fields or gardens or overlooking water.

Hardy originally trained as a scientific illustrator, which taught her to examine the intricacies of natural forms and observational draftsmanship. Throughout her consequent working life alongside architects and designers, she developed a deep interest in three-dimensional forms. These skills informed her later work as a sculptor—and here she is self-taught over the last fifteen years. 

You Blew Me Away


She was drawn to creating human forms out of discarded objects and seems particularly attuned to a sense of movement and energy within material form, capturing these in all her pieces, transforming inert materials into sculptures with a tangible energy. ‘The sense of movement and dynamics within sculpture provides it with its own life and vitality,’ Hardy states.

In the Blown Away series, she chose to use old metal machinery parts because these were made to be resilient and strong, yet were thrown away at the slightest hint of failure. Hardy felt that these imperfect pieces should be recycled to show some of the effects machinery has had on our lives and the environment. She says, ‘By using discarded, man-made metal items—which have been so skillfully made and used to create their own mechanical energy—I hope to extend their life in another form, re-use that energy for a different purpose, and exchange their function to create a new entity.’ You Blew Me Away (159cm x 75cm x 55cm) and Erosion (159cm x 45cm x 45cm) are examples.

Angels in Harlem

Hardy’s dance figures are wonderful affirmations of life and movement. Inspired by the dynamic forms of contemporary dancers, they use a flexible material like aluminium to re-create a visual sense of movement. Angels in Harlem (300cm x 200cm x 750cm), for instance, is a sculpture on stilts designed to gently sway in any breeze, creating a sense of constant movement.

Hardy has exhibited throughout the UK since her first public exhibition of dance sculptures in 2006, including at Doddington Hall, Hill House Dartington and Royal West of England Academy. More about the artist can be found on her website here

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Tales of Modern Experience: Art of Robert and Shana Parkeharrison

In a world saturated almost to extinction by images, Robert and Shana Parkeharrison s photographs offer a unique, poetic and haunting vision. The couple want to portray our shattered environmental world but not in any simple documentary way. Their photographs tell stories of human struggle, loss and exploration within landscapes seriously damaged by technology and exploitation. The images “strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.” (Robert Parkeharrison).

Their stark, often monochromatic photographs – such as The Architect’s Brother (1993-2005) series – are not simply taken but are fabricated in a time-consuming manner; the artists use performance and sculpture (man-made contraptions) to create the images as well as various darkroom and printing techniques. Robert plays ‘the Everyman’ in each photograph, engaged in strange, ritualistic tasks or in symbolic attempts to save our polluted planet. In Mending the Earth (1999) the man kneels on a desolate earth with a huge needle, trying to sew fissures in the earth back together. In Book of Life (2001) he has a huge open book the pages of which seem woven with plants.

Mending the Earth 1999
The Book of Life 2001
Burn Season 2003

These are complex photographs with an antiquated look and with mythic resonance. “I want to make images that have open, narrative qualities, enough to suggest ideas about human limits. I want there to be a combination of the past juxtaposed with the modern. I use nature to symbolize the search, saving a tree, watering the earth. In this fabricated world, strange clouds of smog float by; there are holes in the sky. These mythic images mirror our world, where nature is domesticated, controlled, and destroyed. Through my work I explore technology and a poetry of existence. These can be very heavy, overly didactic issues to convey in art, so I choose to portray them through a more theatrically absurd approach.” (Robert ParkeHarrison).

Lucid Dream 2003
The Visitation 2000
Cloudburst 2001

More photographs can be seen at the artists’ website at http://www.parkeharrison.com/

A short video of the couple talking about their work http://vimeo.com/12897298

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Artwork from Lockdown

During lockdown, I started taking photos of ordinary objects around the flat and using multiples of them – sometimes three, sometimes more – to create artworks. Some photos were of utensils like spoons or forks, others were close ups of glass vases or even soap bottles, chosen for their colour. From the latter I created kind of abstract triptych works. #photography #art

Glass close up
Broken Purple Glass
Spoon
Spoon and Fork
Glasses
Close up of Glass Vase

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The Flowers and Chocolate of Decay: Anya Gallaccio’s art

In the period since ww2, art that involves nature or natural processes has taken diverse forms, from the huge spiral artworks of Robert Smithson created on the shore of the great Salt Lakes, to the walks of Richard Long through the English landscape, to Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral leaf or ice sculptures in outdoor settings. Within such art, there has always been the question: is the immediate experience of the natural world translatable into a gallery? As artists still want their work to be seen and thought about, for better or worse the gallery is the best place – whether in the form of exquisite photographs (eg of Goldsworthy’s sculptures), photographs taken with indifference to art or framing (eg of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty), or data about a walk offering ‘evidence’ of the artwork (eg Long).

Anya Gallaccio (born 1963, UK) has an intriguing way of including natural processes within gallery-based artwork. She creates site-specific installations, often using organic matter such as flowers, fruit, ice, wax and chocolate. An artist who came of age at the same time as the more famous Damien Hirst, Gallaccio challenges the traditional idea that artworks should be a monument within a museum or a gallery; she makes art which changes over time, rotting, melting, being oxydised. It is art about ‘process’ as much as ‘object’, like an unruly experiment, the end result of which cannot be predicted; and as such it is hard to document with a simple photograph – being principled, she refuses to take photos of her own art to sell. She also emphasises the personal experience of the viewer: her work lives on not as photographs that she exhibits but as memories in those who experienced it as well as in the idea of the artwork itself. The emphasis on personal experience puts one in mind of Anthony Gormley’s perceptive comment that art is about ‘reasserting our first hand experience in present time’.

preserve 'beauty' 1991-2003 by Anya Gallaccio born 1963

preserve ‘beauty’ 1991-2003

preserve 'beauty' 1991-2003 by Anya Gallaccio born 1963

Preserve Beauty 1991-2003

preserve 'beauty' 1991-2003 by Anya Gallaccio born 1963

Preserve Beauty 1991-2003

Some of Gallaccio’s artworks have been repeated at different sites. In ‘Preserve Beauty’ (1991-2003), between 1600 and 2000 red gardenias are arranged in four adjacent rectangular compositions underneath large panes of clear glass, with the flower heads facing out towards the viewer. Over time, the gardenias wither and die; as well as changes to the appearance of the work, there are changes to the smell in the gallery, and some flowers even fall out to rot on the floor. ‘Preserve Beauty’ has echoes of Dutch vanitas paintings of the 16th/17th century, which contained collections of objects symbolic of life’s transience and death’s inevitability – a meditation on decay, change, mortality.
The red gardenias, a mix of gerbera and daisies, are grown for commercial consumption and thus are a type of readymade according to Gallaccio – an everyday, often scentless and mass-produced object. These flowers are chosen as they blur the gap between ‘the natural’ and objects of a commodity culture. She explores this overlap between natural objects and those of disposable commodity culture, specifically in relation to the wastage and decay that is usually hidden from consumers. She has stated that, ‘we experience so much of the world at a mediated and sanitised distance, so I try to make art that is not complicit with this structure’.

anya gallaccio roses 1

Red on Green 2012

In ‘Red on Green’ (2012) Gallaccio plucked the heads of 10,000 red roses and arranged them into large rectangle on a gallery floor. At first the installation might seem like a grand romantic gesture. However, Gallaccio’s interest is piqued in what the installation becomes over time. In a way, ‘Red on Green’ becomes a kind of natural performance as the field of red shifts to brown. The symbol of the rose is used as a starting point for meditating on the natural processes of death and decay.

anya-gallaccio-assaults-the-senses-with-edible-dark-chocolate-room-designboom-05

Stroke 1994

anya-gallaccio-assaults-the-senses-with-edible-dark-chocolate-room-designboom-02

For her installation ‘Stroke’ (2014-15), she constructed a room made of dark chocolate, inviting visitors to lick the walls if they so dared. The room was partly intended to be a feminine space in an art-world defined mostly by men: the artist sees her unusual material as one normally associated with the female domain and she thus brings the domestic out of the shadows, into the public arena. Painted in thick, gentle layers of chocolate, the room was dark and cavernous, a space to be entered into and experienced. The piece relied upon the viewer drawing meanings from the artwork, though it was as much about fantasy and anticipation as the actual (disappointing) experience of sitting in a chocolate room. As the artist explained, the real chocolate room was distinct from what one might have expected. As time wore on, the sweet odour turned sour; the chocolate, painted onto the walls, oxidised; insects moved into the space. More an encounter with decay and discomfort than with sensual pleasure.

Other works include Glaschu (1999), in which a pattern outline from a paisley carpet, drawn from flowers and foliage, pierces a thinly poured layer of cement floor in an elegant neo-classical interior, so that living verdure creeps from the meandering cracks. The theme of nature reclaiming its territory from human ruins is poignant.

More about Gallaccio can be found here https://www.blumandpoe.com/artists/anya-gallaccio

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