Athens based artist, Alex Chien, paints his favourite childhood toys for his debut UK solo exhibition at Moosey. The world his dog and dinosaur characters live in is one of nostalgia for the adventure-driven phantasmagoria of children’s cartoons. He combines a graphic realism with the infantile playfulness and humour of cartoon tv shows, where pain, gravity and consequence don’t feature.
We’re invited into various snapshots of their adventures and the different personas they adopt; Big Boss, Aristocrat, Master Fox. These scenes often appear as mundane uneventful situations, with nothing outstanding or notable about them... Until you remember it’s a dog who’s smoking a cigar, dolled up in a suit and wide-brim hat, grinning goofily back at you. They’re seemingly aware that they’re being watched, as they pose with a drink, carrot or pitchfork, and proudly allow you to watch them.
The artist sites Salvador Dali as an early influence on his younger self, and it shows in the flickers of surreality that feature in Alex Chien’s world. Scenes are humorously confronted with the absurd, where nonsensical traces of irony are left behind i.e. a gentleman with vegetables in his blazer pocket, a dog drawing a picture of his own doghouse that’s complete with a chimney, or a painting of a toy dinosaur cannibalistically eating another toy, titled Fast Food.
Amongst the cartoon caricature and humour, there’s something instantly relatable about these images. Maybe it’s the pop sensibility in the Star Wars references and Nike trainers, or the space that the artist leaves to allow the onlooker to easily imagine themselves drinking cocktails in a pool on Greek islands, or lounging in fields in the summer sunshine. Or possibly it’s the childlike introspection that all of us have, at one point or another, felt ourselves; the infantile freedom and
ease of life that every person has experienced and perhaps now seeks. These works are instantly recognisable as Alex Chien’s too - whether its a dog, dinosaur or rabbit-teddy-thing, the raised spongy cheeks, determined eyes and goofy overbite are unmistakably characteristics of the artist’s figures.