MUST DO: Charles Avery at DRAF

Don’t miss an awe-inspiring mixed media show at the Mornington Crescent gallery

Mythical beast the Duculi, whose two canine bodies are fused at the neck. Photo: Charles Avery/DRAF
Discuss: is a narrative thrust more spellbinding than something abstract in art?

Charles Avery would say so. Inspired by his own upbringing on the Scottish island Mull, for over a decade he’s created work set in a fictional country he calls “The Island”.

His current exhibition, in the pristine white spaces of Mornington Crescent’s DRAF gallery, is perfectly executed over four rooms to convey an atmospheric sense of wonder at his unique parallel world.

Called Study #15 the show looks in depth at life on the Island. The first room introduces the novel idea, with a painting of a boat on the shore marking the arrival of the explorer – or us. A bucket or two of eels are on the floor, central to the inhabitants’ diet and economy.

Detail, Untitled (Place de la Revolution). Photo: PR
The next room displays the Duculi (main pic, above), a local mythical creature whose two canine bodies are fused at the neck in “a blind eternal struggle with the sea”. It’s a powerful, alien work.

The central room is focused on a huge illustration, Untitled (Place de la Révolution), depicting the various residents of the Island’s central city, the wittily-named Onomatopoeia, bustling with cyclists (see pic above). On the opposite wall, another drawing, Untitled (The Ninth Resort) shows a dock scene with men fishing for the all-important eels.

Geography and anthropology are intricately conceived, too: Avery also produces objects, posters, furniture and jewellery – memorabilia displayed in a final room, much of which we have seen hand-drawn earlier. The detail and scale is such that you can really lose yourself in it all.

Thanks to careful exposition, it’s so cleverly thought out that the visitor is instantly transported – like any well-crafted movie – to another world.

And the show can be appreciated simply for what it is, or as something deeper – a reflection, perhaps, on the nature of identity.

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Study #15. Untitled (The Ninth Resort) runs until 8th April at DRAF, Symes Mews NW1. Open Thurs-Sun 12-6pm. More info at @DRAF_gallery

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