AboutOutsiders Newcastle, the North-East gallery of curator-director Steve Lazarides, presents 'Cluster 10', the debut solo UK exhibition by San Francisco-based artist Mario Wagner.
Wagner's colourful and arresting style has been used to great effect in premium style titles like Esquire and Vanity Fair. His canvasses depict a contrasting mythos: free-thinking and colourful retro-futurist scenes are blighted by contemporary intruders, well-tailored men seemingly up to no good, made all the more intimidating and inhuman by their balaclavas.
The paintings' collage backgrounds harken back to the 50s and 60s when science fact raced to keep up with science fiction. It was an era when technology was embraced unthinkingly, and man was only a short step from realising a total leisure culture or his destiny amongst the stars, depending on his adventurousness of spirit. The pictures' protagonists however pursue a very different agenda. Slick moral relativists from a more recent age, they ride out with sinister intent, set traps, stew plots, and bury their dead clandestinely in compelling micro-narratives that trigger the less welcome elements of our imagination. Tomorrow's world has not been realised, nor was it ever likely to be. A lack of personal jet packs is the least of our concerns.
Fear and excitement lustfully combine as the viewer is propelled into Wagner's opulent but often threatening dreamscapes. Who and what do we sympathise with more - the giddily assured optimism represented in Wagner's canvasses by post-war science fiction, or the shrewd self-preserving realism of the figures who slink through it?
If you could forgive the Man from UNCLE for fiddling his expenses, or likewise feel that the future needs guardians fast, then 'Cluster 10' will push your buttons.