Sunday, 7 November 2021

Damien Minton presents Good Grief: A group exhibition celebrating Snoopy and Peanuts

This show finished yesterday. It was in a small gallery in a back street of Redfern where I’d walked from Broadway Shopping Centre. Earlier in the day I saw a post on my socials about the show and I had anyway to be in that part of town for other reasons. I spoke with Damien for a little while outside the front door of the gallery where he was sitting. He said that young people love Snoopy and that, like me, Snoopy had been a big part of his life when he was growing up. “I like being king of the kids,” he joked with a laugh just before I sauntered off to walk to the station.

Before leaving the space I snapped a number of photos of the exhibits, including Oscar Sulich’s ‘Snoopy on a Rainy Day’, which captures the feeling you have when you need a dose of Charlie Brown comics. I like the way that the red house both looks like Snoopy’s cartoon doghouse and also like the house of the young man shown at right. It’s as though the man were dreaming of Snoopy while sheltering inside, so that the dog’s spirit suddenly appears above him in the air.

Lilli Stromland’s ‘On the Mend’ was nearby. An acrylic on canvas, Stromland’s painting is intimate and practical, showing what might appear in someone’s house if they were repairing a doll. Of course Snoopy has been reproduced millions of times as children’s toys, so it’s very likely that a scene just like this has happened many times over the past 50 years. Stromland captures moments in the lives of parents of kids who love the famous pooch.

Louise Tuckwell takes the theme of domestic manufacture to another place, in her painting ‘Caped Snoopy’ imagining an abstract artwork with Snoopy as the main theme. The retro ideas of this acrylic and mixed media on canvas privilege colour and shape while still remaining figurative to a certain degree so that you can see a suburban street and a hillside.

In ‘Snoopy Karaben’, Genevieve Harnett creates a Japanese bento (lunch box) with paint and collage.

‘Bow to the Wow’ by Garry Trinh is enamel and acrylic on canvas. It hardly needs any explanation but I liked the feeling that this has been knocked up in a few minutes. You can almost see the paint being sprayed onto the canvas. The colour is blue alone.

A detailed figurative acrylic on canvas, Luciana Smith’s ‘Snoopy’s sky in another life’ takes you into what looks like a home office. The smiling face drawn on the peanut-butter-on-toast is the only happy thing though the pictures on the walls suggest that the dog wants relief.

Rosemary Lee’s ’21-5’ is a nice coloured pencil drawing that shows a suburban street with bold colours used on the storefronts and in the sky, which is overcast and grey. The tone is sombre and rain threatens. You wonder who’d walk here past the pink building or if someone might at this moment be driving up in their car looking for number 47. The large white arrow in the foreground prompts you to think about the past.

Ben King was apparently instrumental in identifying artists to participate in the show, Minton told me (though Minton also had other useful contacts). King’s plates are na├»ve in design and hung on the wall in a small display.

Blak Douglas’ ‘Franklin’s Down-Under Coming Out Tour’ is in the artist’s customary, bold cartoonish style. The message is simple and direct, which is Douglas’ usual method.

Humour also derives from Toby Zoates’ ‘Charlie Brown I love you via Picasso’, which is a digital print on paper. You can buy one of several in the edition made for this show.

‘Dancing is Cool’ is an acrylic on canvas by the same artist. It’s lively and engaging and it also plays with ideas about identity that seem to preoccupy young people these days, at least I see them expressed in literature and in the visual arts.

‘Goodnight’ by Louise Gerber takes the image of Snoopy dancing and injects it into a slightly sinister landscape. It’s not clear where Snoopy finds himself in this acrylic and oil on canvas, but there’s something demonic about the colours used to render the dog and the space he finds himself in.

A couple of very nice pencil drawings (with aerosol) are by TOTAL BORE. They are ‘A Tower of Auspicious Figures’ (top) and ‘Don’t sh000t the Msngr’ (bottom).

Lily Golightly’s ‘Caring is the coolest thing I’ve heard of’ takes the idea of identity a further step into a confusing world of shapes and colours. This sombre painting in gouache, acrylic and spray paint (which is used for the grey clouds) wants to find relief but it seems impossible. Snoopy appears to be lost in thought, or just lost.

‘Are You High?’ by Matthew Usmar Lauder is dramatic and funny. It’s as though Charlie Brown had just asked his dog a question. The dog is not as stoned as the boy, though.

The same artist’s ‘Humans love doggy’ (acrylic on canvas) extends the laughs but an overweight Snoopy’s nose is a bit too large.

Mark Hetherington’s ‘Good Grief at the Drive In’ uses in its title one of Charlie Brown’s favourite expressions (“Good grief!”).

In my final photo we can see a young woman wearing a Snoopy top. She’s looking directly at the camera but is turned slightly to her right, avoiding confronting the viewer face-on. It looks staged but the room the woman is standing in is not significantly organised for the purposes of the photograph. We might’ve caught her in her bedroom just before she goes out. The shirt is black and Snoopy’s design is printed on it in white, which emulates the woman’s face. Her eyes are turned toward the viewer but it looks as if she’s refusing to talk. Did I ask a question?

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