Fairy Tales: Witchiness


In fairy tales, women are often cast in the role of maiden, (step)mother or crone, many stories focus on the transition from girlhood to womanhood, with marriage (and motherhood) the ideal outcome. Coming-of-age journeys in classic tales, however, are often fraught. There are dangers for girls who fail to adhere to societal expectations — they can turn into the threatening figures of the disagreeable crone or the evil witch, who lives alone in the fearsome woods.

Fairy Tales‘ unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ 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) as we highlight works on display.

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

Enter the Witch House

Witches tend to be cast as unpredictable, vengeful or malevolent forces, who possess supernatural powers and secret knowledge. Often, they are women feared for their very independence. While witches’ dark motives make them the villains of many fairy tales, contemporary tellings such as Trulee Hall’s Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023 (illustrated) reframe them as empowering female role models. Tracing the associations in fairy tales between age, gender, fertility and influence highlights the ways our society is constantly changing. Today, many stories celebrate the redemptive powers and joys of ‘witchiness’, and powerful witches in literature, film and television are often complex characters, rather than simple stereotypes.

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

EXHIBITION THEME: 6 Into the Woods

Trulee Hall ‘Witch House (Umbilical Coven)’ 2023 

Trulee Hall, United States b.1976 / Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023 / Wood, papier-mache, resin, fabric, stuffing, fake fur, synthetic hair, altered sex dolls, synthetic polymer paint, spray-paint, found candle holders, cornucopia baskets, found ceramic cornucopia, found crystal balls, convex mirror, polymer clay, hardware, LED candles / 431.8 x 685.8 x 436.9cm / © Trulee Hall / Photographs: N Umek & C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Witches in fairy tales commonly live far away from towns and villages. Self-sufficient, they rarely choose to live with others. A witch’s home is often enchanted, filled with magical objects, ancient knowledge and power.

Sculptor, painter and filmmaker Trulee Hall’s wonderfully theatrical Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023 revels in the power of witches and the positive aspects of non-conformity. Jet-black and precariously constructed, this dwelling is at once alluring and daunting. Inside is a video work combining elements of live action with stop-motion animation, featuring images of feminine energy, fertility and a seance. A place of power, transgression and action, Witch House (Umbilical Coven) reclaims and celebrates the figure of the witch.

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition 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.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

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