Dystopian visions from a resolutely Gothic imagination.

Investigating once again the dark destructive inpulses of humans, Gary Coyle’s new exhibition presents a terrfying snapshot of the way we live. – Aidan Dunne . The Irish Times. Tuesday March 17 2020 .

Generally the titles of Gary coyle’s exhibitions are reliable indicators of the mood they strike; Southside Gothic, Death in Dun Laoghaire , the Wild Wood. Now, Dreaming Different Dreams, his latest , might sound innocouous enough. Once you encounter the work, however (and though the exhibition is technically on view, a certain virus could delay that ), you will be in little doubt that he does not mean different dreams in anyway remotely related to a political slogan. After all his is a resolutely Gothic imagination.

The show consists of a number of densely worked black and white charcoal drawings , long his signiture medium , very effectively arranged against a highly textural , monochrome vinyl mural, based on a line drawing of a vertiginous mountain landscape ( made with Aiden Greinelle ). The mural’s colour is a garish pinky purple derived from wallpaper in the Wallace Collection. The location depicted is part of the Watzmann Massif in the Bavarian alps, an archetypal landscape of the German Romantic Sublime, as featured in painitngs by no lesss than Caspar David Freidich. It is also, presumably not incidentally , forms part of the view from Hitlers Lair, The Eagles Nest. Though rarely visited, this mountain retreat was an important part of the massive edifice of mythology surrounding the Fuhrer.

Several drawings are built around specific images, others are predominantly
textual, with bold tuype emblazoned across dramatically lit skies. Among the images is The Black Dog, a hound depicted in as light cancelling shade of black as charcoal can be and like much else, ambiguous. Is it a single headed Cerebus , guarding the gates of the underworld or in a similar vein, a Hound of the Baskervilles or symbolic of Churchill’s term for the depressions he suffered ? Or none of the above and just an amiable Labradoodle . Probably not, it does have an ominious look about it.

Equally in Portrait of a Boy, the subject’s demeanor is curiously blank & hard to read. Is he simply one of those inline to inherit the shambles his precursors have managed to create or something more problematic, someone whose imagination is prone to be poisoned and weaponised. He does have the slightly ominious appearance of one of those figures lurking in the wood who featured in Coyle’s previous work.

Coyle cites a remark by Philip Guston from 1967. The painter wonders how he can make tasteful decisions in the studio while he is fuming about the state of the world he lives in. Guston’s solution, famously, was to forsake abstraction and make broad , cartoon like political allegories about his feelings on what was happening around him. Coyle mentions Black Mirror, a drawing in which an arm extends a selfie stick, as a specific reference to a Guston composition, The Selfie is a symbol of the narcissictic self absorption of our time.

Several drawings –NO,Guilty,FOMO- feature single words or acronymns against dramatic skies , delivered in the kind of epic , metallic typefaces characteristic of grandiose death metal album sleves, say , or Hollywood blockbusters of earlier times. Individually each might seem quirky, perhaps amusing; Guilty alludes to a conditioned state of ubiquitious guilt: FOMO a form of social anxiety thriving in the age of social media.

Collectively, however , they do project a distinctly dark tone. Dreaming Different Dreams , for example, for example, refers to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s brutal purge and execution of his uncle Jang Song Thaek in 2013. Among the litany of his relative’s “crimes,“ Coyle noticed was “dreaming different dreams.”

Not an isolated dystopian phenomenon, he feels , but a reflection of a state of affairs, ordained by survelliance capitalism, whereby everyone is persuaded , through the workings of digital technology, to dream the dreams the market deems are suitably theirs. Taken overall, Dreaming Different Dreams.is a terrfying snapshot of the way we live now. Whereas for Freidich the mountains presented an overwhelming experience of divinity, greatly transcending the merely human, Coyle seems to sketch out another version of the sublime, one that is terrible and vast but essentially created by humans themselves, a variation on what has become know as the technological sublime.

His case seems to go like this : between malign, deluded leaders, and witless self absorption and passivity , we’ve managed to wreck the planet and surrender any real autonomy. Looking back over the totality of Coyles work there is perhaps something else;he’s consistently been fascinated by what might be termed the flaw in humanity, a dark, destructive impulse that will get us in the end.