Although the thought provoking project was never realised, plans, maquettes, drawings, essays and Wall’s original photographs, including the present work, effectively communicate the artists’ intentions. Envisioned as a building located on the periphery of a playground, the Pavilion is a setting for contemplation and refuge. Adorned on its interior walls, nine back-illuminated roundels hang depicting children of different racial origins, all of whom are monumentalised against an illusionistic and romanticised cloud formation. Describing the series, Wall commented, “the tondo form is associated with ceremonial or decorative portraits and figure-groups often featuring women, children and angels; but it is also related to coins, on which the heads of rulers are minted. The circular form also relates to the sphere and therefore to the symbol of the cosmos, but also to a rubber ball flying through the air above a playground. Balls, bubbles, lollipops and other round, shiny, happy forms are parts of the world of toys which are vehicles in adventure fantasies” (Jeff Wall cited: in Dan Graham and Jeff Wall, ‘The Children’s Pavilion’, Parkett, No. 22, 1989, p. 68).
With intensified and saturated hues, the present work depicts a half-length portrait of a child, arm elevated as though addressing an audience. There is certainly an air of influence and leadership emanating from the young girl, as though this is a figure of power and governance. Parallels may also be drawn between Wall’s aesthetic and that of advertising and pop culture; vibrant, glossy and visually striking the present work is a campaign of sorts perhaps political, perhaps consumer driven. Here, the dramatisation of Wall’s subjects is rooted in the meticulous construction of appearances; a method akin to both cinematography and the tradition of Renaissance oil painting. In this, Wall attempts to recover the qualities of an older pictorial idiom which he considers to be integral to modern culture and inherent to our society. Since the 1980s Wall has continued to confront Contemporary art with the sensuality and the pictorialism of mass culture while simultaneously instilling mass culture with the intellectual, political and aesthetic traditions of the avant-garde.
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