Monday, 25 June 2007

Art Exhibition Review: Timpani Suicide by Gustav Chichester

Wandering through the Marsupial Art Gallery in Whentwich, I find myself staggered by the innocuousness of the exhibits on display. Nothing of Gustav Chichester’s new show, Timpani Suicide, makes me fear for my safety; nothing looks like it’s going to jump out and attack me, rendering my flesh and using my eyeballs as fancy dice. Despite this, I try to enjoy the experience, but the lack of any perceivable threat keeps coming back to hamper my visit.

Take the massive installation piece, ‘Gradhat’, for example. The centre of the piece is a statue of a girl who looks about eight or nine, holding a bear’s head and looking very pleased with herself, while around her a group of giant dragonflies hang playfully from the ceiling. My initial reaction to this work was one of great joy, but this was soon curtailed when I realized that the sounds of screams and sobbing accompanying the work where not actually intended by the artist, but were actually coming through an open window from the cemetery next door. His other installations also lack a similar sense of dystrophy. ‘Reductionist Landscape’, featuring ten stoats hanging by their necks from the ceiling, has far too much comforting nuance in it for my liking. I didn’t feel moved by the lifeless animal corpses; I felt comfortable, at home, as if I was back in my penthouse in High Wycombe.

Chichester’s canvasses evoke a similar mundane verisimilitude. The red and blue-lead abstract works are reminiscent of the much-imitated Brian Topp, though without the latter’s wonderful sense of anger, pain, fear and aggression. ‘Untitled 4’, ‘Formerly Untitled, Now Called “Florence”’ and ‘Titled (But I’m Not Saying What the Title is)’ would not seem out of place in a doctor’s surgery. Indeed, the cow’s heart pinned to the latter with tent pegs reinforced my viewpoint.

Timpani Suicide marks a period in Gustav Chichester’s oeuvre when he has moved from bold, brash statements of intent to cloying, safe, drama-less tat. I look forward to his moving from this unfortunate lull.

Timpani Suicide is on at the Marsupial Art Gallery, Whentwich, until September. Entry is free to breastfeeding mothers.

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