Tim Walker: Wonderful Things review

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5 out of 5 stars
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things review
© Tim Walker

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

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Fantastical. Fairytale. Magical. Lot of words are used to describe the photography of Tim Walker, but rarely this one: sex. Yet as this exuberant solo exhibition at the V&A proves, the British photographer’s special brand of surrealism, honed over decades working for fashion magazines, is far from saccharine innocence.

The first room recaps his greatest hits. There’s the pastel-coloured cats, the house-sized baby doll, the UFO invading suburbia. For fans, it’s all here. Smaller pictures hide at mouse-height and shiny white icing drips from the ceiling.

Next come ten new commissions responding to the V&A’s collection. Sources are as various as an illuminated book of hours, a lacquered dragon-covered snuff box and a painting of Krishna.

The sheer joy of walking around the show – rather than looking at the images in a catalogue – is thanks to Walker’s long-term collaborator, set designer Shona Heath. The world of the photos explodes into the gallery, moving from medieval church to shag-piled domesticity to bourgeois manor and so on.

And throughout it all you keep spotting one thing: cocks. Sex slips into the nooks and crannies of these new projects, sometimes obviously, as with the display of Aubrey Beardsley drawings, and sometimes randomly, like the stocky unicorn sporting a penis for a horn.

The highlight of the entire stellar show is a series titled ‘The Land of Living Men’ showing naked, muscled men posing in the rugged English countryside, wrestling among the fallen apples, or, in one image, lying back with a butterfly balanced on the tip of his knob.

There’s also an extra room dedicated to Walker’s nudes, including a collection of bloody and brilliant photos surely inspired by Francis Bacon. Chiselled bodies are tossed into a landscape of over-scale dripping meat, red walls and sliced white bread.

This is why you want a ticket to Walker Wonderland. Not just for the wonderful pastel fluff but for the weird fleshy fantasias: surrealism picking up where Méret Oppenheim’s fur teacup left off. It’s like he saw the signpost to whimsy on the yellow brick road and gleefully tore off laughing into the deep, dark wood.

By: Rosemary Waugh

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