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David Lynch: Between Two Worlds at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art

Now showing at GOMA in Brisbane until June 7

Lynch quotes that his upbringing was close to perfect.  He grew up within pleasant, nicely boring American suburbia. But it was the imperfect details of this setting that he took interest in. He gives an example of this, describing rows of apple trees along the suburban streets. A pretty sight at first glance, but if one looks closely they will notice there is a particular apple which has fallen from a tree. It rots and is infested with ants. Even in the most picturesque place there is something decaying.

The exhibition features early work from the 1970s up until now. As Lynch is an artist who explores various media, the show features drawings, paintings, photography and short film. Lamps made by the artist are also on display, which echoes Lynch’s theme of domestic living.

Lynch’s early student art shows that he was inspired Francis Bacon’s work. The gloomy, violent style and subject of domestic settings had influenced his own work. Lynch even created his own versions of distorted portraits, which Bacon is well known for. From here, gradually Lynch’s own style grew.

Lynch has an experimental approach in his paintings and drawings. There is a messy, intuitive method to how this work is created. He also includes a variety of media including clothing in his paintings. It leaves the impression of a childish technique, but the work contains adult content and depicts adult situations. Those who appreciate observational draftsman-ship won’t find satisfaction here.

A dislike for colour comes across. Most of the work is either in shades of black and white, or earthy organic colours. The minimal colour plate creates a pessimistic mood. Works with an earthy colour plate in particular project a dirty, gritty feel which is increased by the heavy textures.

Font is incorporated into many of the pieces. Even the language used is basic, as if written by a child. In some pieces the font is very clear and readable, whilst in other works it is obscured. This brought to mind the incoherent voices in the dream sequences of Twin Peaks. Verbal and written messages that have been “blurred” one way or another.     

The exhibition explores the negative side of the human condition. The most confronting theme in Lynch’s work is sexual violence. The mixed media painting ‘I take you to my home’ depicts a sinister looking cartoon boy carrying a female figure; she is just a pair of large breasts and genitals. Her head is a tight, small ball without a face. Her identity is clouded. She’s an object. Another painting titled ‘Bob loves Sally until she is blue in the face’ is arguably a depiction of a rape. Two insect-like figures mate within a spacious room. Their genitals are larger than their bodies. The male’s penis pushes into the female. The folds of her genitals are painted with thick, heavy layers. In both his paintings and films, Lynch has shown hostility towards women (for example, the movie Lost Highway).

The exhibition offers an exploration of dreams and the subconscious. There is a sense of destruction to this collection of works. It reminds one of the old saying, “little boys love to break things”. Lynch has admitted that he likes when mistakes occur whilst making art.

– Angela Artuso