Todd James: Fantasy Island at Lazarides Rathbone
Todd James brings his colourful Fantasy Island collection to the Lazarides Rathbone gallery. Although the title evokes utopian imagery, the reality is unexpectedly different. Sure enough, sunset backgrounds are featured frequently in James’ paintings, however, the foreground is made up of UN soldiers, modern day Somali pirates and almost-naked blonde women. The compositions are contemporary, abstract and seemingly unconcerned by perspective. 3 Pirates Smoking is the only exception to this, with a less crowded composition and an implication of depth.
James applies a bold colour scheme by incorporating neon colours, but does not apply them in a complimentary way. This choice of palette, whether intentional or not, is somewhat reminiscent of Matisse. Simple, solid shapes create abstract scenes that are further accentuated by clean cut lines. The characters depicted are designed from basic shapes that vaguely produce human forms, yet have no detail or specific features. One of the largest paintings, The Gentlemen’s Adventure Gun Club, uses repeated profiles of soldiers to emphasise their prominence. James paints all of these human forms with disproportionate dimensions, reinforcing the unreality of the scenes.
Rooms one and three of the gallery are host to James’ strange and satirical acrylic-on-canvas paintings that explore social and political affairs in the current world. There is a definite juxtaposition between the armed pirates and soldiers, along with their stigma of violence, against their vivid colours and curvy shapes – those that inconspicuously suggest phallic symbols and erotica. Blast Off and Zooming in particular have strange smiling faces and multiple other contours in which the phallic indications are obscured.
Obvious sexuality is apparent in the second room where James displays six of his drawings that focus on blonde women with exaggerated figures. Made with gouache and graphite on paper, the graphic lines are clearly visible through the colour. All of the women in the images are made up of one solid, bright pink colour for the skin and are carrying huge rifles.
On the whole, the paintings of Fantasy Island are strangely intriguing, while the bright hues, defined shapes and unusual scenes illustrated are compelling.
Fantasy Island is at Lazarides Rathbone from 1st until 28th May 2015, for further information visit here.