Tuesday 18 September 2012

Chloe Early: 9/11 in Disney Land

Now, in the normal way I would copy every other overzealously polite blogger and apologise for my delay in posting new material. No; I haven't been recently hospitalised and no, I haven't been occupied by a family bereavement. In any case, what I have to show you next is worth the wait. If you're like me and have an insatiable appetite for bittersweet art, then I present you with 9/11 debris decorated in a lush Garden of Eden:

At least that's what I see. Mind-fuck? And what a great one. The artist behind the brutal chaos is Chloe Early who, according to her blog, quite plainly and innocently "Paints Pictures". Clearly not as innocent as she professes. Early works with disconcerting yet gripping juxtapositions: exuberant and abundant nature framed by harsh and suspiciously posited airplane engines - callously discarded and reassembled in the aftermath of a mysterious tragedy. 

Everywhere you look there's an explosion of bold colour that suggests life and vitality and liberation, but it's always muddied by an undercurrent of violence bubbling beneath the surface, or by a triad of missiles delicately descending at the bottom of the artist's canvas. So while at first sight you may imagine Early's suspended figures to be falling in blissful oblivion, there's a more troubling ambiguity here. 

Her central subjects - of which there is usually a pair - seem frozen in time and space, locked in some dream-like fantasy which anaesthetises them to the barbarity inflicted upon them. As mentioned, these airplane turbines almost take on a new, diabolic identity in Early's contrived arrangement of them, as if to echo the sick trivialisation of tragedies like 9/11 by manic pop references in the media.

Early's religious undertones here are clear, but if these landscapes are indeed alluding to a spiritual realm, the question I ask myself is: Where are these figures going? Are they angels falling or ascending to Heaven? Are they infinitely and indefinitely spinning in space? Or perhaps they are being exhibited in the most explicit sense: innocent victims falling from an obliterated aircraft...

There are certainly sniffs of Micallef's 'Disney Torture Porn' aesthetic here (research it if you think I've coined that term out of clinical pervertedness). It's that concoction of flowery lightheartedness bled with the fumes of a morbid utopia that works so well. It transmits doubt into the viewer's eye; tips the prospect of escapism into a nihilistic post-apocalyptic world (and vice versa). 

Early is a master of decontextualising and recontextualising iconography, with a keen eye for subverting images of celebration; we have Micky Mouse mingled with bullet shells laced with roses, patterning a memorial that evokes the insanity of war's warped realities. In fact, in their ordered presentation and arrangement, these pieces have the seductive scent of glossy magazine covers, as if beneath the chaos lurks a subtly packaged symphony of false ideals.

Wake up and smell the debris.

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