Saturday, 11 May 2013

Exhibition Review: The Phantoms of Surrealism

The Phantoms of Surrealism, Neil Coombs, 22nd March – 16th May, Theatr Colwyn, Abergele Rd, Colwyn Bay, North Wales.

 The Phantoms of Surrealism is a solo exhibition of new work by Neil Coombs based upstairs in a back room at Theatr Colwyn, the exhibition is supported by Arts Council Wales. The exhibition is made up of photos taken by Coombs at landscapes and locations set throughout the UK which he feels have a historical connection with British surrealism, the photographs are then rearranged into a repeating grid of 15 rectangles to form a ‘spirit’ or ‘phantom’ of that specific place.
Traditionally surrealism for me is all about capturing the spirit of the uncanny, the appreciation of uniqueness, respecting the power of dreams where images are created by first response without no adhering reason or for a specific cause. For me then this exhibition seems false to be named ‘phantoms of surrealism’ because when the photographs from each town are taken and then rearranged to form a kind of robotic face they lose their essence of surrealist because they are no longer just photos but are taken with a specific aim to create the said ‘phantom.’
All the phantoms are made up from iconic settings that adhere them to be from that place, such as the ‘phantom of Westminster’ is made up from snapshots of Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and the Union Jack flag – it just feels too well thought together  and gimmicky to be truly surrealist.

However the ‘phantom’ I enjoy the most is the one of Leeds it may be because I know the area but I feel it is the most genuine as is not made up of well known landmarks but incorporates a street vibe through use of graffiti and brick panelling, it represents the grime of an inner city.
All the ‘phantoms’ have a different robotic expression which is amusing to look at; they are displayed next to one another in a repeating sequence around the white walled room. They’re all available to buy at £400 I think if you have a connection to a place which has been shown you’ll have a greater appreciation of the ‘phantom’ but overall it did not reflect a surrealist aesthetic.

The Phantom of Birmingham

The Phantom of Cork Street

The Phantom of Dymchurch

The Phantom of Farley Farm

The Phantom of Leeds

The Phantom of Shepperton

The Phantom of Westminister

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