Fred Tomaselli: Monsters Of Paradise At The Fruitmarket Gallery

By Kerry Patterson | 06 August 2004
Shows a photograph of Tomaselli's Expecting to Fly. It shows a collage, made of magazine cut-outs of body parts, of a man on his back suspended in mide air. He is surrounded by butterflies and a swarm of hands, visible at the bottom of the picture, are reaching up to him.

Photo: Expecting to Fly, 2002. Photocollage, leaves, acrylic, gouache, resin on wood panel. Collection of Mickey and Janice Cartin

Kerry Patterson was treated to the first solo exhibition in the UK by one of the art world's rising stars, New York based artist Fred Tomaselli, at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery.

Monsters of Paradise is New York based artist Fred Tomaselli’s first solo exhibition in the UK, on display at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh until October 3. The show features over 30 of the artist’s more recent works, made from 1999 to 2004.

As a child Tomaselli lived next door to Disneyland. This experience had a strong influence on his work, along with later experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs.

He is equally influenced by music, Eastern spiritualism and the art of William Blake. In his work, Tomaselli draws parallels between the alternative reality provided by drugs and the individual’s view of reality portrayed through art.

The majority of Tomaselli’s works are created with a collage technique. Using layers of resin, the artist builds up his pictures by combining paint with layers of unusual materials, such as leaves, pills and cut-outs from magazines. The resulting images are both fascinating and spectacular.

Painstakingly crafted, the pieces truly merit being seen in the gallery instead of only as reproductions, each one being compiled from such a multitude of beautifully layered parts.

Shows a photograph of Tomaselli's Doppler Effect in Blue. This collage features what looks like rows of multicoloured strings of beads and sequins entwined, running horizontally across a blue background.

Photo: Doppler Effect in Blue, 2002. Mixed media, resin on wood. Collection of Raymond Foye

In Expecting to Fly, a swarm of hands reach up from the bottom of the canvas, as if to support the man who seems suspended in mid-air, surrounded by butterflies. For me, the figure in this work recalled a crowd surfer at a music gig, eager to be carried across the crowd by his fellow gig-goers.

This interpretation of the piece recalls Tomaselli’s own interest in music, and also a comment he made to Scotland’s Big Issue magazine. He said, "I think that my best work is like a song that hooks you with melody, harmony and rhythm. The lyrics or the content of the song reveals itself later. When both parts come together, you have a mind-body experience that’s full and complex."

Tomaselli’s idea that the content of his work is revealed after its initial impact is very appropriate. On close inspection it is possible to see that his images are composed of both real items, such as pills and leaves as well as photographs of real items cut out of magazines, like pictures of birds, butterflies and body parts.

Shows a photograph of Tomaselli's Big Bird. The collage shows a coloured bird with purple wings, a red tail and ruff and a brown head sat on a branch. There are multicoloured images like stars surrounding it.

Photo: Big Bird, 2004. Leaves photocollage, gouache, acrylic and resin on wood panel. Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London)

Looking more closely at the body of the figure in Expecting to Fly, as in the other pictures featuring people, it can be seen that the man is made up of cut-outs of body parts in addition to various flowers and insects. While some parts are placed in the correct areas of his body, others appear elsewhere, such as eyes and mouths which have migrated into the legs.

Another work to look out for in the exhibition is Doppler Effect, which features strands of images across the canvas. The lines of flowers, leaves, birds and pills recall a strange kind of DNA.

In Monsters of Paradise Part Two the picture is dominated by two human/insect hybrids composed of human body parts as well as various insects.

Monsters of Paradise is well worth a visit, as photographs alone do not do these dazzling works justice. The exhibition is accompanied by a number of events, including talks and workshops. Further details of these can be found on the gallery’s website.

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