Text – David Dorrell
What should we make of the horror that passes for modern life, frozen painfully as it is, between anticipation and anti-climax? Brutal Fascination, curated by DuoVision (Martin Green and James Lawler) at Gallery 46 offers a kaleidoscopic, yet forensic, insight into this question as it is refracted through the works of artists David Harrison, Mandy McCartin, David Wightman and Pete Wylie. Through their lenses, we see splinters of the past, present and future fusing into a landscape where thanatic desire and erotic anxiety rule the urban wasteland, and animals, individuals – even tower blocks – can be found hung on its dark, unexploded axis.
It is this simmering intent of life against the odds – pinned as it is between the libidinal and the death wish – that shimmers across both the bloody fairy-tale of David Wightman’s Let’s Kill Cinderella and the light playing off the crime-scene-tape and the dog’s bollocks in Mandy McCartin’s Parklife (the bedraggled Yggdrasil at its heart a cross on which the city’s tawdry idols are sacrificed). Here, or so we suspect, life slouches on despite itself; the glamour of white-trainers and too much make-up sidling up to it in the sodium glare of city streets.
Somehow, stumbling through the malign half-light of the modern, we find ourselves looping back in time to another era: here tyrants and Wall Street crashes resound into the now via Pete Wylie’s work, his monolithic buildings-become-gravestones mock the aspirations of century-old ‘modernism’ while celebrating a tightly clad, Mondrian-ic beauty that promises security and threat in equal measure. And in David Harrison’s I Want To Be Perfect is it the shadow of the bloody knife in George Grosz’s The Eclipse of the Sun (1926) that falls across the canvas? Or the rictus grin of James Ensor’s La Mort et les masques (1897) that breathes its cold, muffled truths across the years to our socially-distanced present?
Beauty and ugliness have always jostled each other at the atrocity exhibition yet in Brutal Attraction they are frozen in motion; colours raging against the dying of the light; neo-Futurist artists’ snapping Kim Kardashian’s twisted body in the wreckage of a Ballardian Crash; a bookies where all bets are off, all truths unstuck. Amidst the flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict of this era’s deepwater, we float Ophelia-like, as unconscious as i-Phones in our digital cocoons. Beyond us the old world’s horizons have become unmoored, and roles, structures, entire orders of things fall away from us with unnerving speed. Is it not time to replace the old gods of sex and money with new, fecund hybrids? Ones raised in the cracked paving of yellow brick roads, fed with the ashes of bitter truths? Is it still possible to avert your gaze from all this beauty (and the ugly trail of blood it leaves behind)? Text Dave Dorrell
‘A nation dies when it no longer has the strength to invent new gods, new myths, new absurdities; its idols blur and vanish; it seeks them elsewhere, and feels alone before unknown monsters.’E.M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay