Friday, 22 May 2009

Subversives review written by Linda Cleary

Subversives at STISA - 29th April to 2nd June

Subversives certainly does look at the world with a skewed eye; this show is candid, playful, anarchic and in your face. It does not sit pretty or sit up to beg; it's trampled on your biscuit and gone for a walk up the wall; just as the dog in Penny Macbeth's 'The House of Subversives'; in which each room depicts random subversion such as the said dog walking up the wall or a painted lady knitting like a demented clown. Elsewhere Penny's work carves its colour into the corner with 'A Shadow of my Former Self' and its beautific, religious elements of kitsch and her ceramic head bringing poetic visions of Carmen Miranda or Salome.

Sara Jenkin's ironic subversive wit lights up any mind with statements such as in 'About Me' where a cappucino type girl says; 'Are you thinking about me? I am' and 'Hoops'; where we meet two no-hoper characters in a shabby, disfunctional relationship with the woman saying the contextually unbelievable line; 'You have me jumping through hoops'.

Sue Dove's textiles are presented in the most marvellously coloured and characterful rugs and her suspended work 'Souls Adrift' brings curious beings in paper boats hanging at body level and creating a mute ambience as they sway.

The prolific Morwenna Morrison punches hard with paintings such as 'Housewife' and its repeat pattern of 'mother whore wife' with a child type depiction of a woman and house laid over the words. A similar format is seen in 'Oh Baby No Baby' with the title words repeated across the canvas and a woman masturbating; her legs open wide. Two paintings deal with social fixations on weight; 'O' has the words 'Skinny Cow' scrawled upon it and the weighing scales sitting upon a skeleton's head; weight as fixation, obsession – time ticking whilst further along there is 'Fat Pig' and its tyres of voluptuous, naked women, pigs, chocolate and doughnuts. Morwenna goes straight into the heavyweight arena with 'Young Love' and its hard stare at paedophilia; an adult hand, a toy doll; a child about to be taken.

There are some perfectly wacked out and brilliant ceramics in this exhibition and the Queen of Dismorphia must be Lisa Stewart with a plethora of her fabulous exhibits on display. Among them 'A Damsel in Distress' ; a bovver booted camel dinosaur with padlocked ear and false teeth and the astute comment within 'Co-dependency – joined at the hip'; the rainbow joy of union and what one can create, coupled with the push pull tension; the monster between; the third thing that can both beautify and horrify. Lisa pulls us further into her twilight world with drawings such as 'Full Moon Ecstasy' and its wild bird woman cavorting on a ritual eve.

Daniel Barnard delights. Simply delights. His 'Children of the Prawn' is utterly brilliant with its small boys, each wearing the same jacket, held captive in a fisherman's capturing basket. His fantastic 'Medicine Box' throws the concept of nursing to a new and surreal level with 'Round Wire Nails'; place me on forehead and apply pressure until blood is drawn each morning whenever required, 'Belly Button Fluff'; one pinch to be snorted BEFORE DURING & AFTER first emptying of bowels each day and 'Urine (piss)'; 5ml of piss to be taken and gullibly swallowed whenever I want! May leave you feeling low and dejected. His 'He Man & Battlecat' is similarly 'out there' with the words 'I don't have money to buy toys' daniel aged 37 ½ - placed on a piece of paper within the small cupboard housing sci-fi type objects from the sea.

The multi-dimensional Linda Styles has a series of enhanced photographic images in her Earthly Affections work that move between quirky, haunting, thoughtful and social commentary; and some 'look twice' pictures such as 'The Faithful Friend', 'Love & Affection' and 'Family & Frivolity'. Her off beat ceramic installation of gross pink baby heads with an angel baby raised up on a pink plinth is both sickening and beautiful. Nearby, quasi religious iconic figures stand praying to some god as yet unknown and the table is dominated uncomfortably by a large head; its face contorted; lips fleshed out and red; mouth open in a silent scream or a song of dementedness. Linda, as ever, mixes intense with intent.

The King of the King, Mr Ian Dunlop is back at this exhibition with 'Gut Feeling' and its message of 'stop believing now' written in entrails. (Elvis has left the building on this occasion but rock n roll hasn't died)

Una D'Aragona is someone to watch; her 'Red Shoes' emits a captivating but uncomfortable and lonely chord with a strange figure standing alone on a chair in a large empty room; like some minature shrunken adult, a sad soul played by others. 'I Looked But No-one Was There' has what could be a young child bride alone in an abandoned landscape, the darkness of red everywhere and a sheet hanging from a wire line.

Robert Bradford's formidable and garishly coloured work contrasts to Una completely with paintings such as the largesse 'En Plein Air'; the signature toys all around the frame and 'It Takes Allsorts' (co-painted with Penny Macbeth) like an hallucinational homage to Bertie Bassett. The giant 'Toy Soldier' impresses upon the entrance way; made from toy parts, complete with gun.

There are worthy others not mentioned here and I urge you to go and see them yourself, to stand witness to one of the most alive exhibitions this year and let its subversion take you far, far to the other side.

Linda Cleary

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