Sometimes big is better – big canvasses and big bold gestures. This is what you get with Rose Wylie’s paintings. Simple figurative representations and unequivocal depictions of everyday objects executed with a loose, rapid and freewheeling approach that has a real sense of freedom to them. There are also cultural mash-ups with cross-references and a wry humorous take on populist culture with references to TV, movies and celebrities.
The corollary can of course be equally true that small is beautiful. The adjunct exhibition is a scrapbook-like cross-section of the bewildering range of matchboxes produced by innumerable small manufacturers all over India. Here the curator is more akin to the small schoolboy with that obsessive collector trait that we all go through at some age and which some of us never abandon. These small objects invoke that particular pleasure of trying to assemble a complete collection in your chosen obsession.
The matchbox designs themselves have mutated over the years from initially depicting the rich panoply of Hindu deities to now embracing every aspect of day-to-day life including the most bizarre and random of objects. The sheer range and eclecticism of imagery used is both hilarious and intriguing. Literally everything it seems can be appropriated to act as visual aid to sell something as mundane as matches. So it is that every conceivable animal is featured along with smoking monkeys, umbrellas, shoes, kitchen utensils and a moustachioed baby.
The everyday becomes totemic, amusing and personalised. The sheer spectrum of designs means there is an image for everyone to relate to. The small size strictures actually become a template for the creators to work within producing slight but imaginative variations on a constant theme. The results are charming, amusing and often humorous insights into a completely vernacular world of design and culture.
Both exhibitions continue at the Douglas Hyde Gallery until 16th May.