Newly minted London exhibition space The Vaults Gallery is located deep in the underground tunnels below the gigantic Waterloo Station. To enter, pass the skateboarders and street artists tagging the walls of Leake Street, also known as The Tunnel, an authorized graffiti area started by iconic street artist Banksy in 2008. The gallery itself can be found on one side of the colorful, chaotic underpass, below a sign stating “Art & ting.” This subterranean space is the perfect location for artist Wayne Chisnall’s exhibition “Dreams of Being Batman.” We caught up with the artist about his darkly humorous work inspired by “disrupted home life, macabre literature, comics, film, animation and organic and geometric forms.”
Among the pieces on show is the eponymous “Dreams of Being Batman,” a sculpture of the Dark Knight’s mask with elongated ears. Much of Chisnall’s work draws on childhood perceptions about adulthood, and Batman was his favorite hero growing up. “I made the sculpture white and floating for it to be dreamlike and ephemeral—it has to do with memory and how fallible it is,” Chisnall says. “Childhood fears, passions and experiences can shape the people we become in adulthood and a lot of the themes in my work hark back to these early influences.”
Another standout piece is the Nail Box, made from found wood and nails, including two nails from London landmark St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the artist worked on a project. After spending four years collecting the nails, Chisnall then waxed them all individually to give the piece a coherent look. A majority of Chisnall’s sculptures, like Book Tower II (a literal tower of books), are made from repurposed materials, many from the Victoria & Albert Museum where he works part-time as a museum technician. These materials have started to find their way into Chisnall’s 2D work as well. His latest work “The Koople,” for example, is a naked couple (with tentacle-like limbs) painted on a door found in a dumpster outside Chisnall’s studio.
“There’s something authentic about found materials. There’s a history to them; evident through aging or signs of wear. I also enjoy working with forms and objects that people are already familiar with, or can identify with,” Chisnall tells CH. “That way, when I cut something up and rework it into something new, I’m playing with something that is already loaded with meaning. It’s like taking a well-known quote and restructuring it so that it says something new, or reverses the original sentiment.”
The underground space and Chisnall’s sometimes macabre, fun sculptures, such as a pillar of hair on wheels, combine to create a slightly uncanny yet humorous exhibition that encapsulates the uncertain space between childhood and adult life.
“Dreams of Being Batman” is on view through 29 November 2014 at The Vaults Gallery.
Images by Cajsa Carlson