Fairy Tales: Into the Woods


The ‘Fairy Tales‘ exhibition celebrates classic tales of enchantment, transformation and caution, together with contemporary retellings by creative storytellers, who remix and remake these treasured narratives. ‘Fairy Tales‘ explores how these stories have held our collective fascination for centuries, and how, in the hands of artists, designers and filmmakers, they offer insights into our contemporary world. 

Fairy tales also transports us to faraway lands that exist out of time. In much-loved and endlessly retold stories overflowing with kings and queens, castles and carriages, feasts and riches, we find adventure, community, happiness and love.

Fairy Tales‘ unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ — featuring Henrique Oliveira’s commissioned installation Corupira — which explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales‘ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). We start our journey at the entrance to this enchanted world, past the gnarled and twisted woodland created on site by Henrique Oliveira.

Watch | Henrique Oliveira introduces the GOMA installation ‘Corupira’

Watch | Installation time-lapse of ‘Corupira’

Into the Woods

Many classic fairy tales are set in the woods, with some of the most beloved European tales taking place in dark forests or faraway castles — ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to name a few. Here, in spaces of enchantment, unpredictability and danger, characters are offered the opportunity to transform their lives. By stepping across the threshold, they enter a magical realm where the normal rules of the everyday no longer apply.

The artworks featured in ‘Into the Woods’ reflect the classic stories created by French author Charles Perrault (1628–1703) and the famous German literary siblings the Brothers Grimm (Jacob, 1785–1863; and Wilhelm, 1786–1859). Alongside contemporary retellings of these classic tales are works that explore new stories about otherness and prejudice at the margins of society. Themes of sacrifice, scarcity, resilience and transformation resonate throughout.

DELVE DEEPER: Journey through the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition with our weekly series

EXHIBITION THEME: 1 Into the Woods

Henrique Oliveira ‘Corupira’ 2023

Henrique Oliveira, Brazil b.1973 / Corupira (detail) 2023, commissioned for ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023 / Plywood, tapumes veneer and tree branches / © Henrique Oliveira / Photographs: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Henrique Oliveira has transformed the ‘Fairy Tales’ entrance into a gnarled and twisted woodland. Corupira 2023 combines the key fairy tale themes of pathways and transformation alongside ideas of nature as a powerful and enchanting force. The work incorporates found tree branches, sustainably sourced plywood and strips of tapumes veneer salvaged from construction sites in Brazil. The title stems from a Tupi-Guarani story, now widespread in Brazilian folklore, of a small, flame-haired forest-dweller, who misleads those trying to track him with his use of backward-facing footprints — a disorientating trick that soon sees his foe lost deep in the woods. A guardian of the Amazon rainforest, the Corupira protects plants and animals from hunters and loggers by transforming predators into prey.

TheFairy Talesexhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film‘ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.