Exhibition title: HIDEOUS, BEASTS AND CORPSES FFIAIDD, BWYSTFILOD A CHELANEDD
by Danny May
My 1000-word Review on a current exhibition in the Arts Centre (Aberystwyth)Thu 25 November 2021 to Fri 28 January 2022
The exhibition’s title is a reference to a quote from Aristotle ‘we enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance corpses.’
The idea behind this exhibition is inspired by how the human brain sees and maps each part of the body and its sensorial significance. Throughout the exhibition in a series of sculptures, paintings and drawings, colours and shapes are being used to associate with pleasantness, joy, evil and darkness.
This exhibition contains a combination of paintings, sculptures and drawings on display in the Arts Centre on two different floor levels. This spread-out structure of the exhibition gives you the opportunity to move around and use the time and the space in your favour to absorb the art pieces you are looking at. Moving and walking around the installation’s sculptures allows you to enjoy and experience the detailed work in 3D sense. Looking through them and sometimes physically leaning into the installed structure, to have a look inside the sculpture is a totally different and unique experience compared to observing an ordinary sculpture / statue. The pieces are based and shaped on geometric and symmetric but also organic, unusual, bizarre and irregular shapes and forms therefore each single piece gives you a very different kind of feel. Different pieces of different sculptures are made through a mixture of mechanical and hand carving techniques and methods.
All the paintings in the exhibition are oil on canvas media and they are also aligned with sculptures in terms of representing the idea and theme for this exhibition. The majority of the pieces are accompanied by a simple initial sketch or drawing, which gives you a glimpse of the process from an idea on paper to the physical structure (sculpture) standing in front of you. All the drawings presented next to paintings in this exhibition are in the form of pencils on card-paper drawing media. Paintings are accompanied by sculptures made out of wood and metal. A simple approach of showing people step by step process from a drawing to painting to sculpture, almost like connecting dots is very effective and a very human way when it comes to building engagement with the viewers and audience.
The colours used in paintings and sculptures are on both extremes of the spectrum. Some pieces contain sharp and striking combinations of bright neon colors. These striking bright and loud colours are normally associated with happiness, celebration and joy. On the other hand, some pieces are painted in basic black, white and gray tones. These colours together with shapes are a representation of sorrow, sadness and pain.
This approach makes this exhibition aesthetically colour-balanced covering from high end vibrant colours to low and dark colours and textures. It also covers the ground of representing both extremes of emotions and feelings projected through these pieces. This kind of coverage makes this exhibition accessible to a diverse audience to enjoy and experience.
The shapes appearing in different artworks throughout the exhibition often consist of a balanced combination of symmetrical shapes including cones, cylinders and tubes with irregular, random and organic shapes. This unusual combination of shapes represents a clash of the human desire to control and create perfection beside that of the wild nature of the organic world. These shapes also represent parts of the human body. In most artworks these bodies are going through different journeys and performing different movements, projecting and posing different experiences. One specific sculpture is accompanied by a video with sounds to enhance and convey the idea behind it.
These geometrical and organic shapes also represent elements of the landscape like trees, clouds, fire, rocks and lakes or rivers. The similarity of these shapes and their sizes keeps the options open for viewers to figure out the picture by swapping them around in their own mind.
The exhibition makes numerous visual references towards historic art such as The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, The Ambassadors by Holbein, and The Joy of Life by Matisse. Characters and the landscape built by these shapes are also loosely inspired by the biblical story of the fall of man from The Garden of Eden and the symbolic motifs of a tree, a man and a woman in a landscape. These historic references engage with the idea of the true nature of the natural world and the human desire to control and shape nature. Telling us the true and full story of pretty and ugly, weak and powerful, good and evil, beauty and beast, celebration and sadness, happiness and sorrow, mortal and immortal, tame and wild.
Inspiration from these opposing ideas and concepts runs throughout the exhibition and it’s very visible, especially in paintings.
In conclusion this exhibition ticks many boxes on my checklist, from positioning and spacing the artwork throughout the building, the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly materials as much as possible, reaching out to both sides of human emotional spectrum, playfulness with rich and dark colours but also with surreal shapes and organic textures and the conceptual diversity of ideas.
By attending the inauguration event on 4th of December of this exhibition in person and meeting with the artist and creator of this exhibition Danny May I learnt that this exhibition tells us a very honest and universal story that, the story of good is incomplete without evil and nothing can be seen beautiful without comparing it with something hideous and the world of angels can’t exist without the emergence of beasts and every story needs an end, so the story of life ends on corpses.
HIDEOUS, BEASTS AND CORPSES