Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm

As England counts down to the ancient pagan celebration of the summer solstice, the Arts Gallery presents Heavens to Murgatroyd!, an exhibition that delves into shamanism cosmology, mysticism and the occult in an endeavour to investigate the unknown. Mike Ballard, Lindsey Bull, Bompas & Parr, Jess Littlewood and Joey Ryken invite you to explore an alternative interpretation of the universe through collage, painting, performance, video, sound and sculpture.

The allure of the mystical has long held sway over artists. From ancient civilisations’ depictions of mythical beasts and gods of the natural world, to talismans crafted throughout the centuries to ward off harm, and the Victorian Gothics’ fascination with all things supernatural, art has been used to explore, represent and embody alternative belief systems and their phenomena. The contemporary artists in Heavens to Murgatroyd! work across disciplines to interrogate the full spectrum of post-modern perspectives, from cynicism and intrigue, to sincere belief in a mystical experience of the world.

Mike Ballard’s site-specific installation will wrap the exterior of the Arts Gallery on High Holborn, enticing his audience inside towards a mysterious monolith within. A mystical assemblage of contemporary cosmology, Ballard draws on influences as diverse as London’s graffiti scene, the excesses of the Renaissance, prehistoric cave art, and the occult to form work, which calls on muses as disparate as cult shamans, Egyptian deities, and cosmic gods. The artist obscures his intentions, whether he seeks to seduce or subvert through the aesthetic of alternative ideology.

Spectacular culinary architects Bompas & Parr have had a life-long enthrallment with all things occult; for this exhibition they aim to revive the ultimate 19th century parlour game, the Ouija board. The duo have designed a limited edition Ouija board tea towel which will be for sale exclusively at the Arts Gallery; the tea towel will unite the domesticity of the humble tea towel with the supernatural functionality of a spirit key board, making the ability to communicate with the undead available to every home.

Exploration of the sensation of a fractured reality is central to Lindsey Bull’s work; her paintings depict figures within, and enveloped by spaces that feel simultaneously familiar and unreal. She draws on a lexicon of imagery to depict figures performing or engaged in some unknown ritual. Intersecting with the figures are natural forms, such as stones, crystals and rocks, creating psychedelic patterns from nature imbued with a symbolic and ethereal quality.

Jess Littlewood’s work evolved from her bewilderment at the state of being a mortally-aware animal; her resistance to believe in the mystic and unquantifiable led her to a practice which interrogates belief and the thought systems that surround it. Her interest lies in the point at which these systems begin to use belief for personal and political gain, using recognisable and trusted motifs of religion, mythology and ritual as subversive and pervasive tools of manipulation. This questioning is informed by a continuous inquiry into the nature of extremism, focused upon fundamentalist church groups and occult influences upon Hitler and the Nazi party. In Heavens to Murgatroyd! Littlewood will show new works which seek to locate and explore these subversions.

Joey Ryken’s work samples personal anecdote, occult ritual and symbology, with references to popular culture, sub-cultures and art history. Ryken collates and deconstructs these subjects through mimicry, translating them into his own functional lexicon of objects, photographs, drawings, video, and installation. For Heavens to Murgatroyd! he will present Brontomancy / Astrapomancy, a work formed from suitcases containing audio devices and film projections.

During the run of the exhibition there will be an events programme including an in conversation with Christina Oakley Harrington (from Treadwell’s magic bookshop), a respected historian, researcher and speaker in the history of magic and belief happening on Tuesday 17 May 2011, and a cinema night screening the occult films which inspired the exhibiting artists followed by a discussion with the artists happening on Thursday 9 June 2011. Throughout the exhibition artist Joey Riken will hold impromptu performances, check the website for further details. For full details visit http://www.arts.ac.uk/gallery.htm

Read more about the free cult film screening night on 9 June.