Felicity Powell - Charmed Life: The solace of objects
Thursday 6 October 2011 - Sunday 26 February 2012
“It seems that the soul... loses itself in
itself when shaken and disturbed unless given something to grasp on
to; and so we must always provide it with an object to butt up
against and to act upon.” Michel de Montaigne, 'Essais', 1580
'Charmed Life: The solace of objects' is the
result of the artist Felicity Powell’s engagement with a collection
of 1400 amulets assembled by the Edwardian amateur folklorist
Edward Lovett. One of the few people to have had access to this
curious collection of ‘charms’, once carried in the pockets of
Londoners for luck or protection, Powell was intrigued by the
silent witness they bore to countless personal narratives, most of
which are now lost to history. Despite being long divorced from
their original owners, these objects, borowed from Oxford
University's Pitt Rivers Museum, seemed to retain an insistent
sense that they might yet hold some hidden magic.
Amulets have appeared throughout history and
across many cultures in an infinite variety of forms. Each has been
invested with the hope or belief that it could somehow mediate on
behalf of its owner. They are tiny embodiments of the anxieties we
feel about our human frailties, their assumed powers often drawing
on the dark arts of superstition and magic.
Reflecting on the potency – sometimes alluring, sometimes
repellent – of these much-touched objects, Powell found parallels
with her own artistic practice. The films and artworks that
complement her curation of the amulets show her own fascination
with the small and intimate, as well as the accompanying compulsion
to create images and objects “to butt up against and to act upon” –
objects that might themselves, as in Montaigne’s description, help
to anchor the soul.
Now available in the app store. The 'Magic in Modern London' iPhone app is a treasure hunt set in Edwardian London. It focuses on the amulets collected by Edward Lovett featured in 'Charmed Life' and his investigations into folklore and superstition.
Browse strange objects from Edward Lovett's collection of amulets, and discover the magical properties that their owners ascribed to them.
Powell's films explore the intimacy and intricacy of both her own work and Lovett's amulets.
Waxes by Felicity Powell.
Nathalia Brichet talks to Londoners about the things they treasure and carry with them in this short film.
A diverse programme of events accompanies both exhibitions in Miracles & Charms.