- Vaad Gallery
- West Midlands
So I enter the gallery and my senses overload, I spot a tree with multicoloured leaves crushing a poor bird superhero/villain, spilling his Wonderland pills (Rainbow Drops) over the floor, the DJ’s instrumental beats sound out across the room, I turn around and people are chalking away at one of the walls; characters, pattern and words encompass everything whilst one of the artists Moot is painting and doodling a board installation nearby, not until I am almost on top of it do I notice the goodies stall with books, prints, posters, t-shirts, zines and toys, my mind must be elsewhere, maybe it’s the film crew, or maybe it’s the drawings, inks, prints, and paintings of animals, people, cartoons and creatures that cluster around, and down every wall, and the space is huge, this is going to be fun.
Wonderland is the third exhibition staged by inkygoodness (illustrators Lisa Hassell and Michelle Turton) who work to provide a platform for emerging and established illustrators, artists, designers and crafters to exhibit together creating networking and professional development opportunities. It also thus works as an instrument to chronicle a fairly new movement of contemporary image makers; showing new work and innovations from new people, how established makers are developing and their influence on new practices.
One of the things that first hits you looking around the show is the familiarity you feel, the sense that you’ve seen people like George Mitchell and Rainbow Donkeys somewhere before, and you probably have; on flyers and posters, in magazine and comics, in shops, the list goes on. The self promotion of these makers is key to their renown and takes many forms from obvious influences like Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami and David Shrigley. What is important is how few of these practitioners seem to draw any kind of differentiation between their illustrative and design practices and their gallery work. It is not something which develops with their practice it is a given, why should a design for someone dictate not working like yourself and so why therefore should working with global brands be a bad thing?
The show is filled with such a wide variety of gems and jewels that there is something to entertain and enthrall everyone. Felt Mistress contributes some crazy half-bred animal characters with Jonathan Edwards’ painting accompaniments. Steve Rack’s characters represent something of a more fruity yet somehow more human set of Mr Men and Women. A giant wall painting from David Shillinglaw covers half the end wall and combines illustrational and graffiti techniques to create a large fellow filled and surrounded with pattern and obscure cultural references from cLOUDDEAD and Sole to Milk and Big Foot, a great analogy for this movement.
Other stand-outs include Lisa Hassell and Kate Hindley and their intricate, colour filled, patternful worlds. Simon Wild and Mark Wilkinson and their new art historical Cubist, Mexican, African, graffiti, design, illustration works. Moot’s incorporation of graffiti into a more traditional painting practice and it actually working and coffee stain painted portraits from Adi Gilbert carried out with fantastic execution. Not to mention Gemma Correll who is always entertaining and Juan Salas’ ink drawings and one particular work depicting a frog and young girl playing leapfrog.
It is unfortunate that the show is plagued by some nagging annoyances. One thing that stands out is some over-reliance on tired source material such as Super Mario backdrops, clouds, arrows, buildings and cities. Like Micropop the work is still the same quirky, vivid, electric work that excited you in the first place but in places it seems a little stale. There is still life in these icons and symbols however as Simon David Mills demonstrates, but innovation is required.
It is also a shame how some work imitates others work, Jon Burgerman and David Shrigley being the main victims of this. Showing influence is one thing but replication does not continue any kind of critical debate and therefore does not develop a movement or continue and allow for new conversation.
Other problems are minor, it would have been nice to see text and installation have a bit more presence and an animation or two wouldn’t have gone a miss. I also feel the range of subjects could have poked somewhere a bit more beyond the aesthetic. The other minor problem is the lack of professional presentation of some work, crumpled paper and colour print outs on poor quality paper is not of a professional standard but understandably for some practitioners this is a first time exhibiting and like I said, these problems are minor.
Overall this is a great, great show, there is some fantastic and important work from some established and new makers and this movement is still in its early days so there is more to come, I don’t think I will be disappointed and I can’t see how anyone could leave this exhibition without a smile on their face.