There's a common response to figurative art that is so typical it almost passes unnoticed. The question itself is very simple: is that real? Be it photorealist or highly stylised, the desire to know whether an image is based on real life, represents a real place, or is a likeness to a real person, is universal. But what about beyond the picture? When presented with stories and facts from our information-saturated society, is the same question of reality still so prevalent? Or perhaps we like stories in a different way to pictures, and even appreciate that their veracity is somewhat malleable? With such questions in mind, we are pleased to present “Weapons of Reason”, an exhibition by Freya Pocklington and Robert Nicol.
Freya Pocklington's drawings depict characters on the verdant fringes of society. Disarmingly charming in their execution, Freya's work is closely bound to the idea of outsiders: how they come to be so, how they are perceived by others, and in particular the role that the media can play in creating outsiders by turning the everyday into the sensational. Many of her ideas come from internet news stories which over time have seen their subjects raised up and misrepresented, till everyday people are turned into spectacles to be gawped at, leaving them isolated and misunderstood. Freya explores this process through fragile characters in incredible, fantastical environments, surrounded by accumulations of unrelated objects that echo the noise of information excess. There is always an animal element, be they as crazy friends or facial masks, hinting on the one hand at the feral enjoyment that bizarre spectacles can create, and also relating to Freya's research into the role that animals can play in helping fragile people to recover.
In contrast, Robert Nicol's work is an exploration of imagination and storytelling, and how impossible the freedoms of fantasy actually are. Rendered in a bubblegum pop palette and with a sense of Quixotic optimism, his works depict improbable characters inhabiting Lilliputian landscapes with joyful abandon. But in Nicol's world, freedom is absolute and without limitation. Like a game that has gone too far, his scenes take place after the first flush of innocence has faded. Cutesy people turn vicious and violent; inanimate objects come to life as a vindictive mob. Some of his characters still plod ahead with their broken Elysium, hopelessly committed to a futile existence in a world much more complex and sinister than they could ever have imagined. It is one that is blind to concepts of good and bad, underlining that no matter how well-intentioned, the human psyche remains, at its core, both dark and light in equal measures.