Steven Dowson, Sadie Coles
Mint is the first piece one sees on entering the gallery. A circular chopping board is mounted on a paintbrush handle like a large lollipop, which is itself fixed to the wall by an extendible metal arm. On the side of the chopping board that we see first, painted like a slick pub sign, is a self-portrait in profile, aping the regal pose that adorns our coins, of Dowson made-up in red and white clown make-up. He has a turd sticking out of his mouth and, for some reason, a rather pained expression on his face. On the other side of the board is a portrait of a decidedly hairy anus that, one assumes, belongs to the artist. Inspection of a tattoo located just above the anus reveals an image of three ostrich feathers with the inscription Ich Dien below them, a design more normally found on the reverse side of a 2p coin.
Quite an opening but one that is typical of Dowson’s work. Aside from taking a swipe at the monarchy, Mint plays on a number of binary relationships; two sides to a coin, the sadist and the masochist, production and consumption but manages to avoid being an over-laboured metaphor.
Other is a similar work, also a wall-mounted, two-sided piece, this time painted on a wardrobe door. On one side is a naked full- length self-portrait, on the reverse the back of the artist’s skeleton, rendered in oil pastel and made to look like a blackboard diagram from an anatomy lesson. The relationships between life and death, portrait and diagram and the part to the whole are all alluded to, but again the directness avoids pretension.
Among the other eight works on show, the crass commercial culture surrounding Princess Diana and Jurassic Park come under attack and God is personified as a sinister corn-dolly- cum-voodoo doll made out of vegetables. Though the subject matter changes, there is a consistency to the style and tone — the tone tongue-in-cheek and the style poppy-YBA in flavour— that is impressive for what is a first solo show.
Until 8 September. 35 Heddon Street. 020 7434 2227