The Little Window Gallery: Viola Ann Seddon

December 7, 2021

Step inside a fairy-tale world of ballet and opera

The magical works of artist Viola Ann Seddon have taken over the Little Window Display of JGM Gallery to light up the festive, end-of-year period. Viola Ann finds inspiration in the great divas of opera and ballet - from Bizet's Carmen to Prokofiev's Cinderella - to create and hand stitch individual doll figurines of dancers, ballerinas and opera singers to create theatre tableaux.


Born in Melbourne, into one of Australia's most prominent theatrical families, Viola Ann found early inspiration from the legendary prima ballerina assoluta Margot Fonteyn and the famous Australian opera singer Joan Sutherland. Viola Ann went on to study illustration at the RMIT School of Art in Melbourne. She then moved to London in the 1960s to work at The Old Vic, first as a wig assistant and then as a seamstress in the wardrobe department. On returning to Australia, she studied dollmaking with Mirka Mora, one of Australia's most revered visual artists, renowned for her bright, whimsical work.


Her travels then took her to Asia, where she was a tutor in life drawing at the University of Hong Kong, and then on to Tokyo, which saw the publication of her illustrated children's books, Hansel and Gretel and The Lullaby Song Book, in English and Japanese. After moving to London, she joined forces with writer and designer Jean Mahoney to create a series of intricately crafted children's mini-theatrical boxes. Based on the Tchaikovsky ballets of Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the boxes open out to a stage set, revealing an enchanting world of twirling dancers and fairy-tale costumes.


The diva characters then became an inspiration for Viola Ann's next project - handcrafted doll figurines, made from silk and cotton thread, featuring leading characters from the worlds of ballet and opera. The dolls are then placed in theatre tableaux depicting famous works and characters, ranging from the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute to One Fine Day from Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Mimi in La Bohème.


The Little Window Display of theatre tableaux looks out onto Howie Street - opposite the new entrance to the Battersea campus of the Royal College of Art - to provide a curated display of art for passers-by. In all, the display includes some 30 works of sizes ranging from miniature to a small picture frame. Works available include individual doll figurines and theatre tableaux. Viola Ann is now based in London. As well as creating her fantastical theatre world, she continues as a life drawing artist.