Greg 'Craola" Simkins "Good Knight" @ Merry Karnowsky, LAJuxtapoz // Monday, 12 May 2014
MKG is proud to present Good Knight, a solo exhibition by former Juxtapoz cover artist (and participating artist in "Art Truancy: Celebrating 20 years of Juxtapoz Magazine" at Jonathan LeVine Gallery starting May 15) Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins. In this latest series of paintings Simkins revisits the fears and curiosities of childhood, dragging them from dreamland into reality. These works prove that an active imagination is a double-edged sword – the doors you can open with it can lead you to very strange and beautiful places, indeed.
The origins of this exhibition lie in the age-old ritual of parents putting their children to sleep. Simkins explains: “As a child, each evening my parents would utter the common refrain of ‘Good night’, just as any decent mom or dad should do. ‘Good night’ would echo through my ears as my eyes shut and I slipped through the tunnel into dreamland – leaving me with one question: who’s that? What is this crazy world, who are all the creatures that live here and who is this Good Knight?”
Simkins uses the character of the ‘Good Knight’ as a point of departure into a world worthy of Lewis Carroll, shaped by years watching Saturday-morning cartoons and countless hours lost in story-books. His paintings feature various animal and object hybrids, with different entities melding into each other like errant soap bubbles. Through this process Simkins creates whole kingdoms of chimeras; some friendly and others not so much. Simkins’ childhood logic dictated that “If there’s a Good Knight, there must be a bad one as well” – a computation that lend some avenues of his dreamscape an unsettling edge. Many of the animals Simkins paints sport glowing opalescent eyes and are engaged in predatory behavior in a vast and brooding sky-world. Despite the dark elements Simkins finds these worlds valuable as places to escape to, to find distance from everyda y distractions and the noise of the modern world. By making up new stories based in his own early imaginings, Simkins extends this legacy of imagination and story telling to the next generation.
To balance this dualistic realm of dreams and nightmares, the exhibitions also features a cast of heroes. These include the Rhinoceros ‘Court Guard’ and refined ‘Court Hare’, who wear fine ruffled collars and bear ceremonial staffs and symbols. Their exquisite portraits bring to mind the face cards in an ordinary deck, or perhaps even the tarot and the fates it seeks to divine, all coming to life in warped and wondrous ways.
Simkins’ good characters appear somewhat helpless or naïve, good fools lost in a universe abounding with guile and ill intent. This might be what draws us to them: the enteral struggle of the underdog with a golden heart.