Elizabeth/Lillibet Saskia Langley is a visual artist living in Falmouth and working from CAST Studios, Helston. Specialising in oil painting, Langley’s work takes you back to childhood, but one much murkier that you might be able to remember. Semi-autobiographical and what she declares as "(non)sentimental", Langley has repeatedly referenced photos and objects from her past in an attempt to unsettle our conventional perceptions of that transitional time, while also using these paintings as vessels for personal healing.
Inspired by the “broody sensibilities of Belgian painters” Langley uses surreal compositional treatments and eerie lighting effects to generate a prevailing tense atmosphere. Birthday parties, toys, and other nostalgic paraphernalia smoulder with a dark and often satirical edge; as she extinguishes the candle on customarily happy memories.
Since graduating last year, Langley is currently in an experimental phase and alongside incorporating sculpture into her practice, her recent paintings are underpinned by the act of assembling film stills or found images to form cohesive yet discordant narratives. During this process she has developed an interest in the complexities of visual and cinematic tropes. One trope that has particularly caught her attention is how a beautifully decorated cake, or “Doom Cake”, can be the harbinger of imminent catastrophe. Part of a yet-to-possibly-be-series, originally inspired by these concepts, painted scenes of a girl in a pink dress recount an allegory of lost innocence.
Words below by Will Rees
She knew exactly what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday: Angel Food Cake, covered in strawberries and served with freshly whipped cream. She could picture the scene now. A perfect tea-party, with her cake levitating in the centre of the table atop a crystal cake-stand. And she would be wearing her favourite pink party dress, knife in hand, ready to slice into it.
She’d only tried Angel Food Cake once before, but if she closed her eyes she could remember back to taking that very first bite. It was such a vivid recollection that the mere thought of it made her salivate. That first taste of aerated sponge had sent a sedative sweetness flowing through her, as though the sugar had gone straight from her lips in to her blood stream. But it wasn’t saccharine. Instead, it was like the faintest whisper of a puppy-love sweetheart, coming up behind her and letting out a long, hot sigh into her ear. With each bite, she could feel that sweet breath tingle against the skin of her neck, as if she were being lightly dusted with icing sugar. But just as she had taken each bite, it was gone. So melt-in-the-mouth was this cake that it disappeared before she could even have the chance to swallow. She had always wondered what people meant when they said that eating something was like eating a cloud, but now she knew, this is what they must mean.
She wanted Angel Food Cake at her birthday to recreate that moment, again and again. She craved that feeling so desperately that she felt a slice of cake-sized pit in her stomach. It groaned for the cake. Everything had seemed brighter, hazier, after that slice; each delicate moment laced with a comforting numbness. For a split second an angelic glow had fallen on the world around her, and she knew that everything would turn out OK.