Archive for the ‘Snufkin’ Tag

New worlds

Some of the best art transports you out of the world you live in and into somewhere new. Sometimes that sense of transportation arises from an encounter with the vertiginous sublime that resides in an artwork of great beauty; sometimes it arises from a sense of submergence in the artwork as you gaze at it. And sometimes an artwork literally seems to offer an entry into another world, by depicting credible or coherent glimpses into somewhere else – glimpses that make visual sense, and that invite you to step into a hitherto hidden space.

I often get this sense from the artworks of Ghostpatrol.* His sketches, paintings and installations are populated with strange, wonderful creatures (such as animals whose limbs are operated by children hidden inside them) and are located in places that may or may not be part of this world or the world of fairy tales and myths.

Ghostpatrol’s skill in creating these otherwordly spaces and characters was on display recently in a solo show at Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne, ‘If We Are Going, Then Let’s Go’.

The images evoked illustrations from long lost children’s books, sometimes inflected with slightly disturbing touches, as in the figures composed of tiny fir trees, so that the works don’t veer into cuteness but retain an uncanny edge.

As with all Ghostpatrol’s shows, the gallery space itself became incorporated into the exhibition. Almost all of the works were displayed on one wall at the end of the gallery, with cushions laid out in front of them.

They could be viewed at a distance, or from up close, but to approach them, the spectator had to crouch and walk through a fragile tunnel created from black filaments extending, web-like, from the walls and the ceiling to the floor, at times only semi-visible against the black-painted gallery walls. The effect was a concentration of the gaze upon the artworks and a heightening of the sense for the spectator that in viewing these artworks one passes from the world of the everyday into another space and time. You can see shots from the opening night, along with some images of individual works, here.

And for me, some of the long lost children’s stories that were evoked by these images are the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson. Two large images were placed outside of the display of small artworks on the single gallery wall, hanging instead at the room’s entryway. These works represent a new direction for Ghostpatrol: they are much larger than the majority of his works and utilise brightly coloured dots of paint (in possible homage to pointillism or to Aboriginal dot painting). One of these features a figure that reminded me of Snufkin, in the Moomin stories: the character who lives in a tent, who hates fences and boundaries, smokes a pipe, and plays the harmonica. Here is Snufkin, as drawn in Tove jansson’s novels:

Image courtesy of bluefat.com

And here is the artwork that brought back memories of Snufkin for me:

As a child, I loved the idea of Snufkin, and it was a delight to be reminded of him through the images displayed in this show. It’s also great to see the expansion of Ghostpatrol’s techniques, as represented in these large paintings, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this path takes his work.

*Full disclosure: I co-wrote a book in 2010 called Street/Studio with Ghostpatrol, Miso and Timba Smits.

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