REVIEW – Freak Show at Axolotl Gallery

*****

Step into Axolotl between now and October 17, and you’ll find yourself in a surreal and unsettling world. Filled with strange creatures, eerie objects and a sense of the macabre, Freak Show is possibly the gallery’s most intriguing exhibition yet.

Dreams of the Republic II by Claire McGee

Dreams of the Republic II by Claire McGee

Claire McGee’s large-scale oils are immediately arresting: bold architectural compositions in dark tones with rare splashes of colour. As much intended to be read as viewed, her pieces are rich in symbolism. From the stone carvings on the detailed interiors to the otherworldly figures which inhabit the spaces, her paintings speak in a language that is not easy to interpret, but which is fascinating to explore.

Dreams of the the Republic I & II feature merry-go-round creatures suspended in time and space, whilst female figures stare from the canvas with challenging eyes. The architectural draftsmanship on display is impressive; whilst the incongruent figures and supernatural beings make nods to such varied references as Hieronymous Bosch and 1970s progressive rock LP covers.

Striking in scale and vision, McGee’s works have a dream-like quality which lingers in the mind’s eye long after viewing.

Painting by Jeannie Laub

Painting by Jeannie Laub

Jeannie Laub’s work falls into two categories. First, her often soft, delicate oil and mixed media pieces, which use childlike imagery and themes to evoke a strange yet comforting quality. There are exceptions to this mood however, and Young Man From Selkirk with its ghostly-white central character almost devoid of features; and Girl With A Crow Mask – with its detached central characters – are both deliciously disturbing.

Laub’s second body of work are a series of untitled assemblage and found object pieces. Each small box is filled with figurines, dolls, scraps of paper and other trinkets to create a haunting whole which begs multiple interpretations based on the viewer’s own experience and memories. Several of the pieces feature taxidermy animals, and become memento mori for the symbols they represent: whether a lament for a bird never more destined to fly; or a homage to a fox, its stuffed head presiding watchfully over the rest of the box’s contents.

This is the first show curated by AXO artist Jillox, and she has successfully created a portal to a world of imagination and dreams, which beckons bewitchingly from its Dundas Street home.

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