Visual Narrative


My response to the story of Rapunzel is an inspired rather than a literal interpretation, based on the original Brothers Grimm fairy-tale. I am primarily interested in the character’s motivation and the forces that drive them through the peaks and troughs of three-act structure. My work reinterprets the original narrative by changing the context of Rapunzel’s literal confinement within a tower to confinement within seven bottles of varying heights. The height sequence of these bottles mimics the three-act structure, supported by sequentially numbered labels that lead the viewer to experience them in the intended order. The label text indicates the nature of the visual clues contained within the bottles supporting their visualisation of character’s choices and the moral forces that drive them . The essence of the story is captured through the juxtaposition of the content of bottles with their corresponding text, accompanied by a spell.


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The text on the labels is hand-traced stencils encouraging a personal relationship with the story, had more time been available letterpress would also have been a viable option. My intention is that the bottles should be explored; consequently smell (the poison bottle contains almond essence representing arsenic) and taste (the dropper bottle contains salt water representing tears) contribute to the mood and experience of discovering the story.

I have explored representing individual character traits through the bottles, for example: Rapunzel herself is a passive character, events happen to her rather than being self initiated, but she is also important – the focus of the story. So a tall bottle represents her tower, a key lost within it and her iconic hair winding down towards its base indicates her lack of power to grasp her freedom. The Prince’s bottle is smaller as he is merely a player in the tale, but the bottle is elegant and topped with a crown, containing the skein of silk that leads eventually to her liberation but his demise as the escape does not go to plan. These two bottles are placed sequentially to indicate the closeness of these characters relationship.

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My initial research inspired me to tell the story by representing plot points through packaged items such as shampoo and eye-drops; it was the comparative sizes of these items lead me to relate package height to the three-act structure. I sketched some packaging and subsequently focused my exploration more on shape and form, as opposed to commercial visual messaging. The idea of capturing the essence of the story was inspired by the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind within which the essence of beauty is captured in twelve glass vials. Subsequent research into spells as a means of explaining the bottles lead me to the Witches incantations in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which inspired me to write the poem ‘Rapunzel’s Spell’: Rapunzel Poem

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