Contemporary artist Roy Brown recently exhibited a diverse range of highly intriguing work in Kingston’s Toilet Gallery; an artist run space that as the name suggests is a converted public convenience. The gallery sees a high turnover of exhibitions with Brown’s work recently taking residency this September, this however does not detract from the impact of his creations. Highly appropriate, considering the exhibition space, is the strong gender divide that is found in Brown’s work; on the one hand you see elegant hand drawn images with a subtly soft yet powerful use of colour and on the other, a series of structural willow masks that would not be out of place in a Bulgarian ‘Kukeri’ masquerade. The masks themselves are formed from willow so of course we are put in mind of the age old correlation between man and nature, in particular the tribal and the shamanistic. And though we as humans develop further and further it is true to say that this natural influence is closer than sometimes realised to act as a constant source of inspiration. In the same way that we as cultures, tribes, individuals and artists are drawn to such earthly materials it is interesting to mention how the willow had a similarly alluring affect on Brown’s pet cat Rufus, tempted by the scent of this organic material as the masks were constructed.
When it comes to the term ‘mask’, words such as protection, performance, ceremony and disguise are all attributed to these inanimate constructs that sit upon the face. a notion that Brown so poignantly explores. This desire to transform our very being into an alien life form is enduring and though we may not always call upon such blatantly natural material, it will of course continue. This is signified in Brown’s work by a simple nod to the future in the form of rather clinical attire, carrying a heavy contrast with the willow sculptures, while the imagery appears as deeply connected with tribal ritual as it is to science fiction. To combine these apparent opposites is to form a solid point about human nature in that our evolution as a entity can’t escape our desire, and even need, for altering our current form.