Mirror Heads, dreaming girl

A Contemporary Memento Mori in the Selfie Age - Pip Dickens - Artist in Focus - November 2017

In 2016, Pip Dickens started working on a new series of paintings - Mirrors.  Her ideas unfolded slowly and her enquiries were still evolving when I visited her tucked away studio in Lancaster this summer. Upon entering her inner sanctum, there they were - her ‘Mirror Heads’ gazing at me; motionless creatures with a strong presence, emanating a myriad of emotions.

The preliminary studies of these mirror-headed figures suggested an anthropomorphic source with an inner and an outer life, ambiguous and changeable - a dualism that recurs in Dickens' painterly expressions. Often her concepts draw attention to binary, contrasting or opposing appearances or, perhaps, a divided state of being.  In a time when society is obsessed with selfies and celebrity, her new body of work could not be more relevant - contemporary memento mori – reminding us of our actual demise? For Dickens of course it is an examination of the hopes and fears of the individual referencing the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all worldly possessions and quests.

By applying a variety of subtle shades, she emphasises the charisma of her mysterious personages and alters their status.  Her characters come to life, scrutinising, following and pursuing the viewer to engage in a silent dialogue. Dickens’ vanitas - where ‘mirror oddballs’ dominate her canvases - are a voyage, probing new pictorial and intellectual means to explain the world around us and beyond.

The selection of paintings for this Artist in Focus newsletter was a challenging task, as Dickens' new cycle of work is consistently strong.  Secret Life of Mirrors and The Glass Darkly can be related to the superstitious views of Victorian Society. It was tradition when an individual had passed to cover mirrors in the house, to keep further misfortune away.   She also references the biblical phrase “For now we see through a glass darkly” (Corinthians 13:12) precisely for its ambiguity in terms of interpretation - possibly a mirror or lens. 

Dickens fondness for cinema can be observed, for instance, she teases the viewer with allusions from the film world - Jean Cocteau’s film Orphée, in which mirrors are doors through which death comes and goes.  In Bram Stokers Dracula the vampire cannot be photographed nor can he be painted –  his likeness always morphing into someone else. Her Mirror Heads and Dreaming Girls exude a different kind of aura, they are emotionally charged floating in their own worlds and demand our full attention with their devouring gaze.



Courtesy and ©Pip Dickens, Graham Bole (music), Eleonora Guidi (video), Renée Pfister (text), the Arts Council of England and Lancaster University, 2017.


Exhibition Details:

14 – 24 November 2017, Admission Free, Monday – Saturday, 10.00 am - 4.30 pm. 
Closed Sunday
Private View: 15 November 2017,  6.30 - 8.30 pm
Artist Walk and Talk through the exhibition:
Saturday, 18 November – 11.00am (FREE)
Limited numbers sign up via Eventbrite:



The Storey
Meeting House Lane
Lancaster, LA1 1TH
Lancaster Visitor Information Centre:
01524 582394


For any further information about Pip Dickens' work contact [email protected]



Dreaming Girl 7, 2017
Oil on canvas
H920 mm x W915 mm

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