Sunday, 17 May 2015


Art  First, 21. Eastcastle St

Helter Skelter, 2015, oil on panel, 40x50cm (c)DavidPrice

 When David Price moved his studio to Margate in 2011, he was fascinated by the ruined remains of Deamland, an abandoned amusement park, one of many constructed at English sea-side resorts in the last century, and modelled on a park of the same name in Coney Island, USA, built nearly a century earlier.

"Dreamlands" were popular because they captured  all the spontaneity and thrills of a touring fairground, but their permanent, refined and elegant structures opened up unimagined possibilities: Helter Skelters; Carousels;  a Tunnel of Love where boats  slowly edged their way through dim caverns. At night rainbow-coloured electric lights, thousands of them, turned the scene into fairy land. Well brought up children had to take a nap in the afternoon so as to be awake when this magic happened. There was even space for practical jokes and naughty fun -  you exited from the Ghost House through a door at the front, on an upper floor, at which moment a gust of wind would suddenly blow ladies' skirts well above their knees. 

David Price paints deserted, crumbling buildings, each signalling decay and abandonment. But by a special sort of magic they are  majestic and capricious, celebrating a time, if not of Utopia, of hope of a more democratic and meritocratic future.  

 Helter Skelter is especially intriguing. The viewer is presented with a grid which almost serves to turn the work into a hologram, a three-dimensional image.  You have the immediate experience of peering into the distance through and beyond that which  confronts you. Could that pattern be stained glass or tracery or a mathematical puzzle? Or "just paint"?

Tunnel of Love 2015 oil on panel, 50x40cm,
 (c) David Price
Ghost House, oil on panel, 74cm diameter,
(c) David Price

The three  images here convey energy, wit and intimacy, not least by the artist's use of vibrant shimmering colours. The exhibition publicity refers to the work of Piranesi, an 18C Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome which were a 'celebration of architectural wonders and human artifice as much as they were a meditation on chaos and decline'. Could you say that Piranesi was imagining Rome as a corrupted theme park?

P.S. In 2011  Margate's Turner Contemporary Art Gallery, designed by David Copperfield,was opened, representing a serious cultural investment on the Kent coast

 “The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also put Margate back on the map.” Tracey Emin,uk

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