Serena Korda: The Maidens

9 February - 17 March 2023

Cooke Latham Gallery is delighted to present The Maidens, an installation of new ceramic works by British artist Serena Korda.


Korda’s recent practice has centred around a process of worldbuilding, creating an ever-evolving environment for the protagonist at the centre of her own fiction – a Giantess, based on the Greek siren Parthenope, who’s monumental oceanic necklace And She Cried me a River (2021) recently showed in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ curated by Jenni Lomax at Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples and the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art.’


In this new series Korda expands upon the world of this imagined giantess, building her a spectral female entourage inspired by Penelope’s twelve handmaidens in the Odyssey. Peripheral characters, the handmaidens aided Penelope in the daily weaving and unravelling of a funeral shroud - a cunning strategy to put off the suitors that accumulated in Odysseus’s absence. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’, focuses upon the untold female perspectives within this familiar myth. Similarly, Korda reviews the narrative through a feminist lens, placing the maidens centre stage, their murder the ultimate expression of their lack of agency.


Influenced by the palette of majolica pottery, baroque excess and the garish colours that would have originally embellished classical marble sculptures, the installation will be comprised of several human scaled headdresses, helmets, and hairdo’s adorned with frivolous decoration. Floating like spectres, the absent heads will be presented as though in an early 20th Century milliners or glove shop display, along with ‘mannequin-like’ dismembered limbs. Hands holding eyeballs such as ‘After St. Lucy’, 2022 and erotically gloved arms like those of ‘Romantic Phantasy’, 2022 are delicately rendered in clay. Referencing the excesses and confines of numerous different eras of female attire ‘The Maidens’ become mutable time travellers, occupying a liminal space between the past and the present; ghosts that question the societal confines of today.


Women in myth who weren’t monsters or goddesses rarely had power but often used their craft as a weapon. This is true of Penelope but also of Philomela and her tapestry, weaving her tale of being raped after her tongue was cut out to prevent her from telling the story. A series of embossed severed tongues will be nailed to the gallery wall in reference to this silencing of female protagonists. This ‘weaponising’ of craft is both the inspiration behind this new series and a definition of Korda’s own practice.


‘How Strange and yet how logical is it that so many of our metaphors for storytelling are drawn from the discursive field of textile production. We weave plots, spin stories, fabricate tales and tell yarns as a reminder of how the work of our hands produced social spaces that promoted the exchange of stories’


Maria Tatar, The Heroine with 1001 Faces