I thought that I was going to the opening of a tattoo parlor with a few paintings on the wall. The sinks for the tattoo parlor part have yet to be installed so the only ink was on a few drawings – it was just a gallery opening.
696 Ink is a new gallery in the same location on Sydney Road as 696. To the casual observer it may not even look like a new gallery. Some of the same artists are on the wall. The front gallery is still hung salon style although the larger paintings make it look less crowded. Amongst the hundreds of people at the opening was Melika, one of the previous 696 gallery directors. “In a few years there will be another couple of display cases and more art on the wall.” She predicted. The change in direction is subtle from a street-influenced art, illustration and craft direction to hardcore pop surrealism.
Pop surrealism is the bastard child of Salvador Dali and a Hollywood hooker. The child grew up in an American tattoo parlor reading underground comics and eating acid like it was candy. Like many of that generation pop surrealism traveled the world, growing bigger, fatter and more popular but is still hanging out in a tattoo parlor reading comic books, or fatter graphic novels.
There are some good examples of the variety of pop surrealism, from comic book style to super realist, on exhibition from the 20 artists on exhibition at the group show opening of 696 Ink. The sculpture on exhibition is particularly powerful. Mark Powell’s cabinet diorama looks like a scene from Wm Burrough’s Naked Lunch. And Isabel Peppard, who has worked with Patricia Piccinini, has a humanoid larval form developing in a skeletal womb.
696 Ink is being run: Meg Woodsworth, Jason Jacenko (the tattooist in the trio) and Jon Beinart. Jon Beinart has been publishing books about pop surrealist artists for several years and collecting a coterie of artists, the beinArt Surreal Art Collective. Monthly shows of artists are planned for the second back gallery room, with the next show by Karl Persson (see my review of his previous exhibition at 696).