Magazine article Art Monthly

Fantasy Island

Magazine article Art Monthly

Fantasy Island

Article excerpt

Fantasy Island Metropole Galleries Folkstone January 14 to February 26

The Metropole Galleries occupy the former ballroom of the Metropole Hotel, one of a string of similarly grand and glorious Edwardian establishments perched atop Folkestone's cliffs. Once people came to this oasis of gentility in the neglected sprawl of East Kent to waltz and lounge, and perhaps indulge in fantasies of escaping still further--to France, which is visible across the Channel. Nowadays, visitors are cued into backward-looking trances by reverbs of antiquated gentility in the hotel's architecture. One wants to associate such fantasias with the free play of the imagination, but of course this is not the case. Fantasies, as Slavoj Zizek reminded us in The Plague of Fantasies, 1997, are not only omnipresent in the West but are actively installed and policed: the Metropole's particularly English daydream of sophistication is inseparable from the class system; further, if I find myself wondering what the galleries were like in the 60s, when Kenneth Clark ran them, that consideration is in part encouraged by a current and culturally administered nostalgia for that decade. My escape plans are not my own, although that does not mean I cannot take a certain amount of clandestine pleasure in them. The space of fantasy, as this five-artist show affirms, is forever one of imperfect autonomy.

In Geraint Evans' painting A Berkshire Z Boy, 2003, a clean-cut man who looks like he should be wearing a suit stands motionless, in Hawaiian shirt and hi-top trainers, on a skateboard in a drained swimming pool. Stacy Peralta's inspiring 2001 skateboarding documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, showed poor Californian kids sneaking into rich neighbourhoods, draining someone's pool and, with fierce inventiveness, skating it; this homeboy looks like he owns the conifer-ringed home, keeps the pool empty, and does lonely circuits of it on weekends. What is touching about Evans' painting is the yearning, moving beneath a fairly noncommittal face and bolstered by surrounding details painted with impersonal, hobbyist precision, both for a freedom from the tedium of his day job and for an authentic, living community such as the one Peralta captured. But this character is fairly harmless. On the other hand, the middle-aged, hand-holding couple who, in Evans' A Sculpture Garden, 2005, have turned some rocks at the edge of town into a brightly coloured Christian shrine, cross over the line from self-indulgence to overt proselytising for their own interest, at which point the freedoms of others cannot help but be eroded.

A loose, timely conflation of belief, violence and mediation animates Johnny de Veras's small sculptures, unassumingly positioned on pillars and around corners. Reality TV 4 (Incendiary Device), 2005, is an ersatz television that also feels something like a terrorist's contrivance: a pack of England's Glory matches standing on four match legs, attached to a Duracell battery and a primitive switching device. Turned on, a light inside the box illuminates a small transparency of a fire; the lit image in a similar piece, Reality TV 2 (The Evangelist), 2006, features a church door and a sign reading 'This is the Gate of Heaven'. De Veras's work does not signify in a coherent way--at best, it gestures to a confused, brutal and dumb cultural moment which the wrong fantasies have come to dominate. …

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