Rocky Horror Show

The Silly Liars & The Festive Fools

24 April 14 words: Wayne Burrows
Japanese stylings, fox-faced children and English ducks collide in Chie Hosaka's new exhibition
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Chie Hosaka’s drawings, prints and paintings are the sort of work that is deliberately hard to pin down, hovering at different times between different influences and apparent purposes. The exhibition’s poster image, a drawing in coloured pencil showing aligned ducks in red coats and blue trousers with yellow beaks, is only one example. At first glance it seems the kind of cute anthropomorphic image you might find illustrating a children’s story, but a second look reveals, where the beak’s nostrils would normally be, angry, perplexed and quizzical male faces, suggesting some other, darker, layer of meaning: a confrontation or ritual, perhaps, or a group of jobseekers obliged to dress as ludicrous cartoon mascots and stand outside payday loan and fast food shops in a busy city centre.

Hosaka herself describes what she does in exploratory terms, using drawing as a method to tap into unconscious and dream-like images with roots in many cultures. Stories and influences from her own Japanese upbringing loom large – not least in the exhibition’s centrepiece, a series of four delicate large-scale drawings showing children running with parasols, their faces painted in white and red to represent foxes as part of an annual festival on the Japanese island of Kyushu – but they routinely collide with very English ducks, entirely invented monsters, occasional suggestions of local legends like Nottinghamshire’s Gotham Fools and personages who seem to have arrived on these walls by way of Pablo Picasso’s early portraits of circus acrobats and carnival characters.

The effect is both seductive and unsettling, the delicate lines and subtly coloured and patterned moods generated by Hosaka’s drawings, watercolours and monoprints offset by idiosyncratic touches that, like those ducks, twist the expectations our first glances often lead us to expect. There’s a feeling that permeates the whole exhibition that these figures are only tenuously part of the world we inhabit. Her ‘Colourful Wonderers’ seem ready to fade back into the paper as soon as we lift our eyes from them, while her 'Saltimbanque' might be one human figure, doing a hand-stand, or might, on second glance, be two strange animal forms only temporarily aligning themselves to resemble a human figure. Even those running fox-masked children, placed off-centre on their four large sheets of paper, seem to appear and vanish simultaneously as the pencil lines defining them fade and darken in their frames.

The Silly Liars & The Festive Fools runs at Malt Cross Gallery until Monday 28 April. 

Chie Hoska website
Malt Cross Gallery website


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