The title refers to a suite of ten unique new montages with mixed media, which form the centrepiece of this exhibition of new work by David Ferry at the Gallery Petit, Chelsea, curated by Sandra Higgins in association with the National Print Gallery. The evocative images appear to transport the viewer to a mountain idyll – we could be in the Alps, a cosy world of log cabins and meadows carpeted with wild flowers.
Ridge Intrusion 2, acrylic stencil, photomontage and pastel on paper mounted on board, 2011-13
Ferry suggests the mood: “Here the fragrances of timeworn wood mingles with the fresh air: the cabin’s door beckons a delight of outdoor pleasures; I am consumed with the resonance of nature ” and then brings us back to earth with a bump, as he elaborates further: “within earshot of the council car park”, for this is no Swiss paradise, but closer to Shangri-La, a fictional mountain kingdom designed to feed our fantasies.
Are we really breathing heady mountain air or just experiencing an ersatz version deftly created by idealised images from 1960s tourist brochures and postcards? Soft focus images of idealised mountain views and flora are deftly contained within a hard-edged rectilinear grid, reflecting the tenets of modernism. Bright pastel squares and rectangles emphasise and mimic the attenuated colours of the montage images to create an ironic take on a Mondrian composition.
Flowers are displayed as if specimens in cases – Ferry suggests, “we could be looking at an act of post-apocalyptic restructure of a pastoral scene that no longer exists.” Mists of paint are sparingly sprayed, sometimes through stencils, to complete the impression that this is no real sojourn in the hills, but a take on scenic vistas created by a Hollywood technician, cha nnelling more “The Sound of Music” than classic landscapes.
The artist is no stranger to sophisticated manipulation of existing images: his witty and ambiguous work creates a very individual footprint in contemporary art, and bears witness to the influences of John Heartfield and the classic photomontage tradition. He is particularly fond of picture guides from the innocent post war years of the 1950s and 1960s, which he expertly subverts using highly selected donor material. A previous example was his “Aquariums in Country Houses in Colour” whose 28 colour plates Ferry defiled with piscine interlopers. (This unique book was purchased by The National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum, for their permanent collection, in 2011.) Ferry explains, “The search for donor material is part of the process of creative recycling, adding a new ingredient, a cycle of change and appropriation”. A selection of other works by the artist, including unique books and editioned prints is included in the exhibition.
Exhibition Dates: 25 April to 17 May
Location: Gallery Petit, Chelsea, London
Opening hours: By appointment only