Review: It's art ... bitch! @ Gallery at 94

By chloeg Last edited 186 months ago

Last Updated 14 November 2008

Review: It's art ... bitch! @ Gallery at 94

The use of blasphemy in the title got us along to the second show at Fitzrovia's recently opened contemporary art gallery on a wet and windy night. After all, swearing is funny (don't tell the children this). The art on show in question is much more polite, with nary a sign of expletives, though there was a naked lady or two on show.

The exhibition is made up of work from painter Paul Normansell, artistic duo Dormice and up-and-coming sculptor Mikael Alacoqué, whose work combine elements of fashion, art and pop culture. It is the work of the latter who we come face to face with first, heading down to the stylish basement of the gallery - two golden, shiny canine figurines, ice-cream cones as horns from their heads, bare skulls glistening and teeth baring. Grim and kitsch in equal measure and replicated in bright pink and blue elsewhere in the exhibition, the figures seem to poke fun at public and private monuments and collectable memorabilia in a rather unsettling way.

It's difficult to make our mind up about the work of Normansell, who can claim a Killers' album cover amongst his work and, god love him, must count Pete Tong and Daniel Bedingfield as collectors of his work. On the one hand his pleasing dot paintings such as 'Mistaken For Strangers' sit nicely amongst bright, extremely contemporary pop art; on the other, his portraits of Elvis and Kylie seem tired and a little trite.

Also challenging is the work of Dormice, at times beautiful and subversive; at others, reflective of (and reinforcing) societal norms. The quality of painting is often breathtaking, and the combination of Romantic-style brush strokes with contemporary faces and stances is just wonderful, such as in their stunning 'The Boss' or 'Yoga/Goya'. At other times, we have to question the insistence on producing standard portraits of typically beautiful women like Giselle - where does middle-brow fashion end and high-brow art begin? Perhaps the title of the exhibition draws attention to the gender dimension of fashion and pop culture, thrusting as it does various images of women as (observed) object into the limelight.

Image of Paul Normansell's 'Mistaken for Strangers'. 'It's art ... bitch!' is on until January 4th.