Cathy Lomax and Alleyoops
On entering the
gallery (through a narrow corridor) the viewer is confronted by
a full-length mirror which inadvertently screams. The effect is
disconcerting, inducing a slight gasp which literally makes the
viewer take a step back (in skateboarding terms alleyoops means
to skate backwards) this feeling of being tripped up
or caught in the site of unknowing is further explored in the main
room of the gallery which is filled with various portraits of masked
figures. They range from paintings of children(1)
to images taken from fashion magazines (Ms Blitz, Fashion
Girl, Wonder Woman) to the more sinister Fetish Girl
(with all the inherent connotations of sexual deviance and to the
music hall grotesque of Victorian pornography in The Deadly Phantom
The titles suggest both a secret anonymity (the exotic pseudonyms
of call girl cards) and the comic book potentiality of the superhero.
The what if pretending of multiple personality. These figures guard
their secrets behind their masks.
The walls in the gallery have been painted a steely grey which adds
both to a feeling of containment (these faces are locked forever
in the mausoleum of their painted frames) and to dislocation, the
figures float in their own hypnogogic phantasmagoria. Vintage chandelier
crystals hang from the ceiling, disrupting the solidity of the painted
frames whilst a barely audible soundtrack of glass tinkling replays
a manic cacophony of hallucination.(2)
In Alleyoops we are in the upside down world of subjectivity,
where nothing is quite as it seems. In Phantoms of the Brain
(Human nature and the architecture of the mind)(3)
VS Ramachandran, reflects on the nature of personality and surmises
that Everything I have learnt from an intense study of normal
people and from patients who have substantial damage to various
parts of their brain, points to an unsettling notion that you can
create your reality from mere fragments of information,
that what you see is a reliable but not always accurate representation
of what exists in the world.
Thus, the mirror screams out its refusal of reflection and repositions
the desiring abracadabra of fascination(4).
But this scream is also the scream of adulation, the teenagers
scream of idol identification the lure of a dip into the pool of
promised glamour. This kinaesthetic twinkling world of tacky magic
is haunted by the ghost of its own melancholia. Like the beautiful
Orpheus catastrophic gaze as he ascended from the underworld,
looking back he was lost for ever, the spell was broken.
1: The painting
Sick Boy delineates that indecisive moment of
a photograph which never makes it to the family album, the bleary
eyes of a poorly eight year old hidden behind an oversized lone
ranger mask, In Cat Boy Lomax paints a kind of goofy
anthropomorphic figure (boy becoming animal)
2: Marina Warner - The Inner Eye (Art Beyond the Visible),
The South Bank Centre - 1996 (a national touring exhibition organised
by the Hayward Gallery).
Warner follows her introductory essay in this catalogue with a short
dictionary in which are explained some of the principal manifestations
and exponents of the Inner World that is her subject:
Hallucination: distinguished from illusion in that its subjects
while materially absent, are true cognitive experiences overpowering
the capacity to discriminate between fantasy and reality.
3: VS Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain and
Architecture of the Mind - 1998, fourth Estate Limited.
4: The word fascination has an origin in Latin for casting a spell
by visual means (as does the word glamour)