Walking into the ‘David Lynch: Between Two Worlds’ exhibition is, as I expect, like stepping onto the set of the wonderously dark and quirky TV drama ‘Twin Peaks’. The famous Log Lady appears on a television placed between heavy red-velvet drapes near the entrance and dispenses her psychic advice on loop. I smile in recognition and anticipation but, once inside, all direct references to the show disappear. Created by both Lynch and Mark Frost, 1990’s ‘Twin Peaks’ contained its share of seedy characters, small-town melodrama and red velvet. Those hallmarks are all present here in one guise or another, forming part of a twisted dreamscape that is a fascinating 50-year retrospective not only of David Lynch the filmmaker but also David Lynch the visual artist and musician.
‘Between Two Worlds’ features over 200 works of various media and is divided into three central ideas: ‘Man and machine’, ‘The extra-ordinary’ and ‘Psychic Aches’. The subject matter reflects Lynch’s interest in industry, organic perceptions, personal conflict and the subconscious which lies between both walking and sleeping worlds. Being able to appreciate his photography, paintings, drawings and films all in one space is a rare opportunity to consider the sum of Lynch’s deep creative vision.
Some of his early fine-art works include kinetic ink drawings, exploring mechanical processes and containing desolate undercurrents not dissimilar to his 1977 surrealist horror film, Eraserhead. Of particular interest is Lynch’s use of both sculpture and animation to create the 1967 ‘moving painting’ Six Men Getting Sick – a work presented in the complete darkness of a curtained room, and accompanied by the incessant wail of an air-raid siren. Truly the stuff of twisted nightmares.
A series of matchbook drawings Lynch did in the 70’s (around the same time he moved to LA to pursue filmmaking) is a powerful display of tiny yet ominous and atmospheric black-inked works. Similarly, his 2013 production of still life works uses a Hasselblad camera with macro lens to magnify smaller details of larger photographs and represent the power of the seemingly insignificant. Or to show, as Lynch himself puts it, how “small stories can grow into huge stories”.
As a filmmaker Lynch certainly developed a certain cinematic style, with many of his films gaining cult status: The Elephant Man 1980, Blue Velvet 1986, Wild at Heart 1990, Lost Highway 1997 and Mulholland Drive 2001. Recurring scenes at the heart of his surrealist, neo-noir style include bleak, dimly-lit streetscapes, shadowy figures, fire and neon. As a life-long lover of rockabilly music, Lynch used much of it in his films to give them an atmospheric, often otherworldly quality. Overall as an artist his work is confronting yet without ceremony. It presents its own truth and seeks to show romance in the mundane, darkness and decay.
The ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibition – the largest restrospective of David Lynch’s work to date – is exclusive to Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and runs until 7 June 2015.