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Dobbin's Drawings: Peter Dobbin at Norman Rea Gallery

peter dobbin art
Sunday, 31st May 2009
Written by Emily Boyd

It looked as though a Gorillaz video had seeped into the walls of the Langwith Art Gallery. The Peter Dobbin prints that desk the walls this month are of that dark, "adult cartoon" hue that you see in such videos, and indeed, much of his work is produced for Wi, Play Station, and PSP games.

Looking at Dobbin's work from a distance, taking in a wall full of his picture at once, the work appears to be - if slightly dark - mostly harmless. However, from closer quarters you realise that their overriding darkness is just one of the sinister aspects of the works. The brightly coloured "Octopus Boy" is graphically and supernaturally sexual, and the characters Dobbin dubs "The Youngsta" - a giant hooded youth - is an all-smoking, all-stealing, all-street-peeing ASBO.

It is very clear that the people in the pictures on display are characters he has created, and not just soulless renderings of nameless strangers; they all seem to have a story. Looking at a print of two men sitting of the steps of a house you can't help but wonder what they are doing there, and what is inside the house. The men, in their jeans, chains and sweatshirts, are so strangely at odds with the flag stone floor and wooden panelling of the house behind them. Indeed, a lot of the works on display have the effect of leaving you feeling slightly unsettled, wondering what is going to happen next.

There are commentaries written by Dobbin alongside some of the pictures. Each time you compose a picture, he writes, you have to think about who is going to inhabit the setting, how old the characters will be and whether the pictures should leave you feeling happy or gloomy. This awareness of the feeling the work will invoke in onlookers comes across. They engender very strong reactions, and indeed, whilst one might leave you unsettled, the next might leave you amused.

As well as these character creations, there are also life drawings on display - the beginning stages of character formation. The life drawing seem as though they have been drawn from a different part of the artist’s talent. Whilst the character prints are distorted, caricatured images of people, the life drawing are intricately accurate.

peter dobbin art

The exhibition takes you through the motions of every work, seeing it in sketch form, and final form, with all the stages in-between. As a result of this, each work requires your closest attention, so that you can process the developments from one stage to the next, and react to the finished pieces.

The Peter Dobbin exhibition will be running until 6th June~ prints and posters starting from £7 are available.

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