Thursday, 16 February 2012

By the Power of Grayskull!

'Snake Mountain' - Collage, acrylic and watercolour on paper 420x297 mm 2012

'Castle Grayskull' - Collage, acrylic and watercolour on paper 420x297 mm 2012

Over the past couple of months I've found that the imagery of the castle playsets from the 1980s He-Man toys series keep coming into my mind as I've tried to find ways to focus ideas for paintings. I think it's partly that this was something I was a fan of as a child (though never actually owned), but also because they seem to sum up the idea of an immovable structure (i.e. the medieval-type fortress) translated into a portable, scaled down, all-in-one unit, like a traditional dolls house.
Of course, the pre-20th century dolls house was something only available to the children of the very wealthy, and was linked in form (and sometimes materials) to the wunderkammer. Some of the more elaborate dolls houses were probably as much to be admired by adults as to be played with by children.

The dolls house or playset as a miniature environment has been well documented and thought about, such as in Susan Stewart's On Longing.
For me, objects like Snake Mountain and Castle Grayskull come out of a very Hollywood appropriation of the European Gothic tradition (think Friedrich as imagined by Orson Wells). It's kitsch quotation of encapsulated, reductive history, tied up with the castle as a site or symbol of power and hierarchy. There's also the simplified embodiment of a highly polarised vision of Good and Evil.

I'm not sure how these initial collages will develop - possibly as paintings or screenprints, but I think the images themselves are quite successful in summing up something I've been trying to get at for a while, in a number of paintings and objects such as Sentinel (2010),  Men of the Mountain (2010), or the new untitled piece below.

Untitled Oil on canvas 700x500 mm 2012