6 February - 3 March 2007
Bethany J Fellows, Sharon Goodwin, Therese Howard, Jaki Middleton, Sarah Parker, Marchisa Purcell, Sally Ross, Caroline Rothwell
A Pony Named Freud
“We are still living under the reign of logic, but the logical processes of our time apply only to the solution of problems of secondary interest,” wrote Andre Breton in the First Surrealist Manifesto of 1924. It’s hard to imagine what Breton would make of the world of the 21st Century, so removed as it is from the slow motion existence of the pre-digital age. Whereas Breton and the artists gathered together under the Surrealist banner found liberation in a wholly concocted “chance” arrangement of quaint objects – an umbrella, a dissection table – artists today live with profound disjunction as part of their everyday lives. What Breton proposed would be a convulsive beauty of the unfettered imagination has become the stuff of smart advertising. A washing machine doing battle with a vacuum cleaner over a bottle of beer? No problem.
Despite this, Breton’s theory of disrupting dualities through the deployment of illogic is still a powerful notion. We live in a place and time where logic is at the service of a purely illusory existence, a malleable mind state of shifting emotional narratives and political allegiances woven together into a spectacular world. Surrealism has mutated and changed, been cross bred and fertilised by subsequent art movements and the rich ironies of the contemporary post modern world. Surrealism has persisted where virtually all other 20th century art movements have disappeared simply because the illogical imagination is still provocative and certainly political.
The artists in Unreal-esque take aspects of classical Surrealism and fuse them with the strains of contemporary visual culture. Much of the art here uses nature as a metaphor, finding within it uneasy stories of pathos, yearning and loss. Another interest is a type of lo-fi figuration, a casual seeming image making that avoids grandstanding gestures for the fantastically soft worlds of fairy princesses, majestic ponies and erupting volcanoes. Abstraction finds a home here too, defining a border between the known world and the one beyond, teetering on the edge of certainty.
The paintings and sculptures in Unreal-esque draw on a colloquial style of art making that might appear to be naïve but which are nevertheless highly sophisticated. Unreal-esque is a mini survey of a range of work looking at the way artists express their ideas and the forms that these ideas may take. Partly unreal – fantastical, illogical, surreal, analogous – the work here is also qualified by the esque – having the qualities of the unreal, yet not quite. The only thing here that is unreal is the unreal itself.
With many thanks to: Bridget Pirrie, Stephen Grant, James Steele and all at GrantPirrie, Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf at Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Jarrod Rawlins at Uplands Gallery, the artists - Bethany J Fellows, Therese Howard, Sharon Goodwin, Jaki Middleton, Sarah Parker, Marisa Purcell, Sally Ross and Caroline Rothwell – and Rachel and my sweet Lily.