Tag Archives: soft toys

Soft Toy Art

Toys are functionless and as useless as art. Toys appear to be a category that runs somewhat parrel to art; it is hard tell what the divides the two categories of objects maybe it is all the “do not touch” signs on one side of the division. Toys, unlike most art, are intended to be touched. Toys are intended to be touched, handled and played with.

Toys do not just act as the tokens or signifiers for the imagination at play. Toys are animated with a spirit, a kind of childhood voodoo. And for this magic reason their spirit depends on who is touching the toy, that this spirit can be desecrated by the wrong kind of touching by the wrong person. It is not simple selfishness that restricts sharing toys.

In this new brow era (you know, new brow, neither high brow nor low) there are art/toys created artists are art/toys. There is a lot of it about. Toys created by artists are becoming increasing common in art exhibitions. Toys are part of the street art influence on contemporary art. “Urban Art 10A” earlier this year at BSG included custom soft toys by Amy Calton, Antonia Green and Rob Thompson, from the Australian Guild of Toy Makers, amongst the work of stencil, cartoon and aerosol artists. Snappy Yabby was exhibiting stuffed toys in the window of White Elephant Artspace in Brunswick in August. Cecilia Fogelberg’s “Super Groupie” at Craft Victoria in 2008 was clearly soft toys art for adults. There is also the Toy Society, what started as a small street art project in Australia is slowly spreading around the world.

Sounds fun. I often describe art that I like as fun, as I would like to see more fun art. Fun is a big category, from silly to serious, that excites people’s body, emotions and imagination. Fun has rarely been taken seriously but it is important to life (and not just human life, all vertebrates, like Cindy Lauper’s girls, just want to have fun). Food and sex, the basics of life, are often fun for vertebrates (the same cannot be said for invertebrates). And toys are unashamedly fun creations.

What I find uneasy about much of this art/toys is that although toys can be a miniature representation of the real world but they are not a comment on the world. Toys are a withdrawal from the world rather than an engagement with it. And that most of these art soft toys are ugly monsters.


Urban Art 10A @ BSG

Do not read this review of Urban Art 10A at Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) as it is biased. I work with the curator, Tessa Yee in the Melbourne Stencil Festival. I own a work by Boo, so I have an interest in promoting her work. You have been warned.

Urban Art 10A is a group exhibition, a sampling of street influenced art. In this case street-influence includes aerosol stencils, cartoon influence illustration and custom toys. There is no free hand aerosol art, no vinyl toys, no street sculpture, no guerrilla gardens, etc. but you can’t have everything on a single floor of BSG.

The mini-exhibition of custom toys within the exhibition from the Australian Guild of Toy Makers is fun. Featuring custom soft toys by Amy Calton, Antonia Green and Rob Thompson. It is also the only sculptural element in the exhibition aside from Jak Rapmund’s pile of broken skateboard decks. His rough supports, the broken decks, the chunk bitten off with great teeth marks, are savage. His stencils are fun with a pop sensibility and neo-baroque backgrounds.

Jak Rapmund, photo courtesy of Tessa Yea

Jak Rapmund works, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

There is plenty of work in the cartoon and illustrative direction; Timothy Molloy had a whole comic on exhibition. Apeseven has been painting on more bottles, I’m not surprised as he was very proud of this technical achievement when I spoke to him at his solo exhibition at Famous When Dead (see my review). And like James Panic (I own one of his t-shirts, more reasons for bias) Apeseven is including collage elements into his work. Boo combines both illustration and stencil art in her scenes that are surrounded with paper-cut sacred hearts.

Urban Art 10A did include urban images; the photographic quality of stencil art was on display. Kirpy’s stencils of urban images have a realist tone compared to the more romantic images of urban decay by Logan Moody. E.L.K.’s stencils of mosh-pits, was less about urban images and more about an urban experience.

Urban Art 10A Opening Night @ BSG, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

I’m not so compromised over the other shows on the first floor of BSG; but I’m less interested in photography than street art. Jayne
Moberley’s “Schattenspiel
Show” is a series of misty color photographs of Melbourne and Sydney. Tebani
Slade’s “Lost & Found” is a series of sentimental still life black and white photographs. The only one that I could get into was Bridget
MacLeod “Ephemera”, black and white photographs preserving the ephemeral images of lace table clothes used as stencils on the street, but I have seen this idea used several times before.

I was distracted again by the stock on display at BSG; there was some stencil work by Ben Howe and a painting by Jean Lyons, who I had seen on exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery last weekend. There were more people at the opening with skateboards than the usual exhibition. Milly, the gallery cat was greeting people with affection. I was there early before it got too crowded to move and I’d been on my feet for hours looking at other galleries that afternoon. I wanted dinner and a cocktail more than to hang out in a gallery.

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