LOVE LIFE: ACT II at Grundy Art Gallery

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
Emma Hart and Jonathan Baldock, LOVE LIFE ACT II, image courtesy of Ian Brown

LOVE LIFE: ACT II at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool 17 June — 12 August 2017 Entrance is free

Though its donkeys are now fitted with contactless payment saddles and the Amusements Arcades resonate with electronic flashing lights and sounds, Blackpool remains forever connected with the iconic Victorian seaside resort it once was. Making the northern town a particularly apt setting for LOVE LIFE: ACT II – the second stage of Jonathan Baldock and Emma Hart’s evolving exhibition that radically re-imagines the traditional beachside attraction, Punch and Judy, in three ‘acts’.

Following ACT I at PEER gallery in London, LOVE LIFE’s latest manifestation at the Grundy continues to focus upon the dark humour and violence at the heart of the popular children’s show. Transforming the gallery’s Edwardian rooms into a network of ‘interiors’, the artists explore the psychological landscape of the puppet booth in life-size form. Based upon the ‘room sets’ of Ideal Home exhibitions, each interior offers a wry inversion of the conventional signifiers of domestic bliss. A washing machine spews its blood-red contents onto the floor; a stove heats dishes containing human faces; a string of sausages spell out the threatening words ‘YOUR BACK’; and a pair of tired, aching breasts sag against the makeshift wall. Are these the traces of the abusive love life shared between Punch and his wife, often taken out upon Baby?

Drawing upon Blackpool’s history, the exhibition also features a special display of vintage Punch and Judy puppets on loan from the town’s extensive collections, and a giant illuminated thumb which the artists commissioned Blackpool Council’s Illuminations Department to create. The sculpture is based on the phrase ‘under the thumb’ which refers to the old Common Law granting a husband the ‘right’ to beat his disobedient wife with a stick no wider than his thumb. In the background plays the melodramatic strains of Baldock and Hart’s adaptation of John and Marsha (1951); the comedian and puppeteer Stan Freberg’s cult parody of soap opera dialogue. While a repeated eye motif introduces a 21st century twist upon the exhibition’s themes, perhaps referencing the growing infringement of ‘Big Brother’ style government surveillance upon the privacy of the home.

As the Blackpool rendition of LOVE LIFE pushes the show’s original concerns to an even darker place, it will be interesting to see how its final act plays out at De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-sea, where the exhibition travels to in October.

LOVE LIFE: ACT II at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool 17 June — 12 August 2017 Entrance is free

Where to go near LOVE LIFE: ACT II at Grundy Art Gallery

Abingdon Studios
Abingdon Studios

Abingdon Studios is a contemporary visual art studios and project space based in the heart of Blackpool Town Centre.

ARTB&B Blackpool
ART B&B Blackpool

ART B&B Blackpool is a brand new hotel on Blackpool seafront with 18 different themed rooms, curated by leading UK artists.


Situated in a classic Victorian seafront hotel, beautifully and completely renovated by 30 contemporary artists, ART B&B allows you to support the arts while you sleep.

Bootleg Social

The live-music venue and bar is a hidden gem, standing out against the technicolour nightlife of Blackpool with its own understated edge.

Yorkshire Fisheries
Yorkshire Fisheries

Yorkshire Fisheries is a multiple prize winning fish and chip shop with a history that stretches back to 1907, making it the oldest in Blackpool. The Yorkshire Fisheries’ friers are still very much in action and offering a well organised click and collect service through its website or by calling the restaurant.

Upside Down Blackpool
Café or Coffee Shop
Upside Down Coffee

Upside Down is a coffee shop with a vegetarian and vegan menu, that also sells range of house plants.

Boonnak Thai

If you fancy a lunchtime trip to Thai heaven then Boonnak also delivers a brilliant selection of smaller portions perfect for a midday meal. The team is currently offering a 15% discount on minimum orders and free delivery on its lunch boxes with a minimum spend.

Akash Tandoori Blackpool

This Topping Street Tandoori is a delight and is currently offering delivery for a small charge or collection with a minimum order of £13. Tandoori main dishes and a range of Madras, Dupiaza and Vindaloos to suit every palate, get started with Kofta or Kebabs, tandoori chicken or Fish Tikka.

West Coast Rock Cafe

Family owned restaurant that is famous for it’s burgers and brews its own beer, with a good location is close to the Winter Gardens. Its lockdown delivery menu offers everything you need for a family night in.

Stefani’s Pizzeria

At Stefani’s Pizzeria we pride ourselves in making the most delicious wood-fired pizza, we eat, drink and sleep pizza! Our Dough is made fresh daily and proved for a minimum of 24 hours and by sourcing the best ingredients from all different regions of Italy we bring you possibly the best pizza in Blackpool.

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