Review: Lauchie Reid at Narwhal Art Projects.

October 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lauchie Reid’s The World Turned Upside Down does just what the title suggests – it disturbs the reality of traditional painting and perception and creates an alternative world of the unlikely and bizarre. Displayed in Narwhal Art Project’s one room gallery, this collection of small-scale oil paintings explores and manipulates the traditional genre of portraiture. Reid is playing on the notion of small, ‘muddy oil paintings’ that one could imagine being displayed in some stodgy manor house. But by inserting the bizarre and fantastical he re-invigorates this largely forgotten genre. The ‘extravagant’ is replaced with the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘serious’ is replaced by the ‘bizarre,’ and even the ridiculous.

Reid remains loyal to the poses and costumes of traditional portraiture but inserts masks and animal features to create eerily familiar, yet completely bizarre pieces. In “Syndexioi,” two aristocratic men are politely shaking hands, yet their faces are covered in masks that are disturbingly reminiscent of those worn by the KKK. In Ambassadors, fox and fish heads replace the men’s heads, mocking their prim and proper costume and presence. However, I would argue that Reid’s most powerful works are less fantastical and simply juxtapose everyday figures and objects. In the particularly unnerving piece, “What We Do In Secret,” a small child (with a disturbingly adult-like blank stare) sits on the cross bar of an unsupported, upright bike. The child appears oblivious to the fact that the bicycle is precariously set on cracked ice in a vast expanse of nothingness. This, however, is not lost on the viewer who feels the panic of the situation, but at the same time is entranced by the serenity of the child.

Nearly all of the paintings incorporate a vague, undefined background that is masterfully blended to create intrigue, but not reveal the setting. In “Child of Honour,” the clouds fade seamlessly into the ground so that there is no horizon line. This un-siteing of the figures is disorienting, but works brilliantly. Reid has proven his technical capability as an oil painter of the portraiture genre and can therefore challenge our understanding of the limits of this art form as an accomplished participant.

The World Turned Upside Down runs until November 7th.

– Georgia Erger

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