The Strand Gallery opens its doors to the surreal comedic and artistic genius that is Jim Moir or Vic Reeves (to you and me), with a new exhibition of his eccentric and diverse work. Reeves transfers his outlandish persona onto the canvas conveying similar Dada-esque qualities as seen in his comedy ventures, whilst evoking the importance of his art as performance.
Performance and art are two fully connected forces for Reeves who states that: I think putting your imagination on canvas or a television screen is the same thing. If you’ve got an idea you have got to have an outlet for it. So if it’s painting, poetry, singing or acting it all comes out somewhere.
This sense of imagination and its expression through a multiplicity of creative outputs probably draws closest parallels to notions of Surrealism, which would explain the huge influence artists like Max Ernst and Salvador Dali had on the young Jim Moir and his art. Some of his works might seem more conventional at first glance but on closer inspection they hold strange details, which render them eerie and occasionally sinister despite their humorous slant. Fellow artists Jake and Dinos Chapman perhaps best express the power of Reeves’ art as being: able to command our laughter as a purgative, to encourage the viewer to leak at both ends. A good example of which can be seen in Reeves’ Britain’s Got Talent vase, which provides a comic take on the celebrity obsessed culture of today yet also has an ominous feel through staring eyes and faceless figures. The narrative style draws parallels with the work of Grayson Perry, whilst expressing fame in almost religious terms through its imagery.
Reeves commented on the subject: Being a celebrity can hamper, people think that being an artist is my second job. It is in fact my first job. Being famous is a great help because people come to see what you’re up to if you’re well known, on television for doing something else.
This exhibition outlines both the scope and variety of work that Reeves has produced from spidery drawings and collages reminiscent of Peter Blake to more sustained, large scale paintings and even some forays into the world of ceramics. All of which seems to hint at Reeves’ alternative sense of humour whilst conveying his vast array of talents. His paintings such as Icon appear to take inspiration from Classical artworks with the strange skeletal creatures around the edges gesturing to religious motifs. Reeves questions this by the application of almost fluorescent highlights, yet in the process creates a work bringing together his idiosyncrasies, artistic talent and humour in a stunningly mature painting.
His highly original artistic stance is probably best illustrated through the mixed media pieces taken from his published work ‘Vic Reeves’ Vast Book of World Knowledge’ which use collage and original drawings surrounded by witty and absurd text to give an insight into Reeves’ creative ramblings. His portraits of Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria perfectly satirise these iconic historical figures whilst Reeves’ handwritten text provides an alternative humorous narrative to run along side them. What seems to connect all these artworks is his preoccupation with the Icon, whether that be the cult of the modern day celebrity or the enduring legacy of historical figures, Reeves takes conventional imagery and alters it through his outlandish personality, to create a truly refreshing vision.
The Strand Gallery is really excited to exhibit the work of this man of many talents, with choice pieces from the varied catalogue of his artistic career. Prepare yourself for a colourful and humorous journey into the creative mind of Vic Reeves where all is not quite as it seems.
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Hot Valve Leak: Visual Ramblings of Vic Reeves will run February 13th-23rd at The Strand Gallery.