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Decoding Highlights
Curated by Eva Karapanou
VTO Gallery
96 Teesdale street,
London, E2 6PU

11 June - 11 July 2004

'Decoding Highlights' is an exhibition of painting, sculpture and video installation by Robert Drummond, Matt Franks, Jen Wei Kuo, Rory Macbeth and Tyler Stallings. Robert Drummond and Tyler Stallings live and work in Los Angeles, USA and this is their first time exhibiting in the UK.

Nowadays that high and low art mingle freely and hyperreality displaces metaphysics this show is concerned with 'universal' emotions that colour our perceptions in light of our desires. Preoccupied with the richness of meaning rather than its clarity it uses popular concepts and techniques to recycle the past and the present and blur the boundaries between the world and the 'self'. Through a mixture of fiction and artifice it succeeds in creating illusions by shifting the perspectives of our mediatised reality. With an emphasis on surfaces that glow from within it implies that messages are hiding in the light. The works of this show become surfaces of communication, visual metaphors, constantly mutating. As they evolve over time, they turn our powerful sense of 'now' into a conflict of memories and expectations and make us feel that the passage of time is also an illusion that we can't live without. 'Decoding highlights' is a 'trap' for the gaze in the direction of desire. Tolerant of contradiction, complexity, humour and eccentricity. Surprising and iconographic, like a pop-up book.

Robert Drummond presents 'Emotion Anamorphic', a video installation using the renaissance technique of anamorphosis. Intrigued by the skull anamorphosis in Hans Holbein's portrait 'The Ambassadors,' the artist researched this method's use in Western European art and discovered how to similarly create such an effect with moving video. Upon encountering 'Emotion Anamorphic', the viewer enters a primordial world of meditative sound and abstracted form. Through immersion and the clarity of a single reflection, one witnesses a dance through elliptical time, elemental earth, and temptation. Drummond's secret images shine through our mind's eye. His poetic language possesses an infinite openness to significance.

Matt Franks's work includes a wide range of references to high art and popular culture. He hand carves blocks of styrofoam and polysterene and sands them down to produce smoothly finished surfaces for his alluring forms. He creates surfaces, textures and patterns that suggest interior and soft furnishings, psychedelic pop and the rich decadence of baroque. The flock which covers his new sculptures is light absorbing and gives a depth and tactile sensation, the fluorescent colours glow and react with each other radioactively. The effect is of glowing sci fi luminescence, creatures of the deep, feverish dreams and freudian imagery. Weird and witty, 'Baby Bomb' and 'Kling Klang', challenge our intellect in a humorous way.

Jen Wei Kuo uses his own shaved hair to create in the gallery a wall drawing depicting the globe. His hair bits are layered to mimic the shading, tone, wash, cross hatching of the traditional drawing methods, so that the globe is a personal mass. As an immigrant, by using the globe he stresses on the feeling of freedom, tinged with a kind of unsettled feeling at being away from home, by placing viewers at a seemingly insurmountable distance in space; the viewer looks down on the world as a landscape. Looking at the 'World' drawing all myths associated with the human hair, cross culturally, spring to mind.

Rory Macbeth's 'Magic Eye Painting' is a remarkably 'distasteful' painting. It is the result of his attempt to recreate a stereoscopic illusion image as a large abstract-expressionist painting. By copying the magic eye image the magic eye effect fails. The sense of it almost working is enhanced by a clumsily added motor behind the canvas that hitting it, makes the whole thing wobble and gives the impression that the image is about to emerge. The action of staring at magic eye pictures - which appear usally as an abstract field of patterns - untill an answer or truth is revealed, is similar to the popular misconception of what abstract painting should do. The magic eye painting is a failed illusion, to give the impression that the illusion will work.

Tyler Stallings is interested in the unreality in our reality. He creates his own version of sublime paintings, based on found images which he then manipulates. In 'Mother and baby liquid' the artist is intrigued by how these two identities are linked As if the mother had been born at the same time as the baby he draped this liquid goop all over them in order to suggest that they had just emerged from a womb. 'Colossus' portrays two female fashion models looking at a butterfly. Their exaggerated features provoke the photo-realistic quality of this brilliantly executed eccentric painting which has about the size of a viewer's face. Their distorted lips, huge eyes and flat nails comment on the ideals of 'beauty' in a shocking way.






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