Bonapop, The Gallery, until 1st December, free
This is an exhibition opinion, not an art history lecture, but I think it’s important to start with a little reminder of the background to the Pop Art of the 1960’s. Whatever it’s become since, the purpose of Pop was to challenge the differential of “high” and “low” culture. Remember this when visiting Bonapop, which showcases the work of two artists who, whether intentionally or not, are applying this principle for the 21st century – and joyously so.
One of main joys I take from Bonapop is its stylistic play, how the artists use their respective media to surprise and delight. Let’s start with ladypat, who uses felt to craft his work. When was the last time you saw felt at all? I remember my childhood Fuzzy Felt kits but that was almost 30 years ago, and I’ve definitely never saw them in a school in more recent years. Are they even a thing anymore? Maybe together we can bring back felt as a high art material, because I like what it does for the composition of the works. Because felt doesn’t give opportunities for blending or overlayering, a strong graphic effect is inevitable, which I like – but ladypat has avoided making this appear too layered and decoupage-esque. And it’s fuzzy!
I also reckon ladypat has had a great time making these. The overall subject matter is queer pop culture. They’re irreverent and playful with his subjects, not afraid to stir – the Daleks are a particular favourite of mine. the use of colour and shape only adds to making these a genuine delight.
Against the black walls, Daniel Edwards works with paint – not that you’d know it. “Illusion”, in painting, usually means the tradition of making a painted object look as close to the real one as possible. Edwards nods towards this by beginning each work by recreating a portrait. Not without some skill either, they’re decent copies. But they’re really not the focal point of any of the works. That would instead by the stickers he’s plastered over each picture. By “plastered” I actually mean more illusion, for they’re all painted on with a skill which left me for a long time looking at these and double checking that it was indeed the case that it was all painted. And they are. Well most of the time, except for when he paints onto cardboard boxes. Then the differentiation between the pre-existing logos of the canvas and his replicas becomes almost impossible to spot.
I’m not really one for saying that a work or an artist is good based on technical ability. Sure, you can paint – but what are you doing with it? One of the reasons why I hate landscape painting is because I think it’s a waste of effort. You can be as talented as you like but that painting is never gonna accurately look like, or usually even convey a sense of, what you’re copying.
Edwards’ paintings are skill applied well. They hook you in with illusionism, but he’s doing it with a purpose. He’s using his talent to make what I consider Good Art by working over the surface of what “good art” has been considered to look like for centuries. It’s Pop Art – taking the piss out of divisions between “high” and “low”. And oh, how we always need new artists who like Pop Art but don’t just think that replicating Warhol’s aesthetics without its social context or intention is the best Pop to make. Edwards gets this, and has found ways which speak to Art’s sense of it’s own seriousness. I love it.
I love it in part because of the most important factor of Bonapop of all – it’s fun! Both artists have made me smile. Is it all a bit kitsch? Absolutely – but I can’t hold it against it. It’s not that kind of painfully “knowing” kitsch which is being ironic and thinks itself all too clever. It’s two artists embracing kitsch, working celebratorily in their respective ways, coming together so perfectly.