The relevance of fairytales to modern life has fascinated artist Ritva Voutila for years.
But it’s not the Disney-style fantasy of princes and princesses that has her hooked, rather the morals, ethics and behaviours the stories have imparted throughout history.
The title of Ms Voutila’s exhibition Happily Ever After belies the true nature of the paintings on display, with many taking a more sombre view of the tales behind them.
Some might be familiar, some you’ve probably never heard of before.
“I’ve been illustrating children’s books for so long but in doing these paintings I’m not trying to illustrate the story as an illustrator usually does. When you do fine art you take a more critical view and invite the viewer to question the relevance of the story and what it in the story, which is what I have done with this exhibition,” she said.
“I’m not trying to tell the whole story in one painting, but capture some element inspired by the fairytale. For those who know the story you will find details in the painting that appear in the story.”
The title of each of the more than 20 paintings is the name of the fairytale that inspired it, so viewers can look up the more obscure stories in their own time.
“If you don’t know the story then the painting probably doesn’t tell you or give you that much apart from the visual aesthetic … but all the stories are available today over the internet and that’s where I found them.”
Fairytales have always been an interest of Ms Voutila.
“It’s interesting to think about why they are still so popular after they’ve been around for hundreds of years around the world, and how they are still relevant and why they survive so long when society has changed so much.
”Fairytale were the ethics education of the time and they weren’t meant to be for children in the beginning at all.
“They were meant to give people an education in what expected of them as a member of society – a code of conduct for them of how you need to behave, what is good, what is bad.”
Ms Voutila said one thing that had stayed the same when society seemed to have moved on was the change in the position and situation of women in society.
“But it still seems to be that every girl wants to marry a gorgeous prince, the girl is beautiful and submissive – there’s still a real princess culture despite the change in a woman’s role and position in society,” she said.
Despite the colour and rainbows of many fairy stories, Ms Voutila takes a slightly darker approach to what she sees in the fairy stories that have become the focus of her exhibition.
““This is not meant to be an exhibition for children, but the paintings are inspired by fairy tales. They’re not exactly happy faces because I take a little bit more of the sombre from the story,” she said.
Happily Ever After is at Gallery on Sturt at 421 Sturt until October 9.