Figure Painting - An Exhibition of Oil Paintings of Toys & Action Figures

24 Feb 2017 – 5 Mar 2017

Event times

11am - 7pm. Open Everyday

Cost of entry


Old Truman Brewery

United Kingdom, United Kingdom

Save Event: Figure Painting - An Exhibition of Oil Paintings of Toys & Action Figures

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Figure Painting is a series of oil paintings of the toys and action figures from Joe Simpson’s childhood. The collection is a love letter to the action figures of the 1970s, 80s & 90s.


“I like to work on stand alone projects, that I consider almost ‘concept albums’.  They can appear quite different on the surface – but have a lot of common themes and ideas.  For the ‘Figure Painting’ series it’s particularly the idea of ‘nostalgia’,  something that reoccurs throughout much of my work and that I’m quietly fascinated by.  Nostalgia can be alluring and seductive, but strangely potent – like an unexpected punch in the stomach.  The Greek etymology of the word literally means "the pain from an old wound."


This project started whilst going through my Mum’s attic sorting through my old belongings and on discovering my old toys I got a wave of nostalgia and memories from these little inanimate plastic figures.  They were such a big part of my life as a

child. When you haven’t seen something for years (they’ve been hidden away in a box, shut away in the attic uncorrupted by later associations) to see them again provokes an involuntary memory and acts as a portal back in time, provoking a moment of appreciation rather than mere recollection.  I want these paintings to have that ‘Proustian’ affect on other people.  


I’ve painted each portrait on a natural linen canvas, to give them a timeless feel that is removed from context.  I’ve tried to paint  them in a way that describes the tactile surface of each figure, the texture, the touch – even the taste.  Which sounds a little odd, but I think most kids chewed on their toys at some point, and taste is such a strong evoker of nostalgia due to the initial processing of these stimuli passing through the emotional seat of the brain. For example, painting the He-Man figure, I tried to make the head look squishy and chewy compared to the rigid plastic of his torso.


There’s a quote that I like by Roger Fry from ‘An Essay in Aesthetics’ first published in 1909, he says - ‘it is only when an object exists in our lives for no other purpose than to be seen that we really look at it’.  I believe that’s true for representational painting, I’m trying to elevate these figures into something to be looked at, dwelled on and considered."


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Exhibiting artists

Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson


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