Exhibition review: Oh my God at Kemistry Gallery

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Originally published on The Upcoming on 3rd August 2013

Greek mythology has had a profound impact on the Western psyche, providing an endless well of drama and intrigue for writers, artists, poets and filmmakers to draw upon. In Ancient Greece the gods and heroes were feared and revered in equal measure, before the introduction of rationalism saw them mimicked, mocked and robbed of their religious significance around the 5th century BC. Over time, reverence for Greek mythology returned, this time for its cultural rather than religious importance.

The latest exhibition by Barcelona based design team Hey Studio at Kemistry Gallery, Oh my God finely treads this line between reverence and ridicule. It’s as if the marketing team up on Mount Olympus gave the folks at Hey Studio a call and said “We need a fresh new look”. Zeus, Hades, Medusa and co. are all here, but not as you’ve ever seen them before. The gods and heroes have all been subject to a rebranding exercise, with clean lines and a minimal palette of saturated, bright block colours.

The geometric design of the re-imagined characters is perhaps an unintentional reference to the geometric pottery of 8th century BC Greece, which depicted the exploits of Heracles. These once great figures are laid bare – there’s no smoke or mirrors, no mystery or intrigue. Instead, it’s a simplistic, almost childlike depiction of the gods, and yet, they are not without their own charm.

The comic book look is certainly humorous, as is the witty play on the concept of an avatar. The work looks like the thumbnail images you would find on a forum or Twitter profile, if the account happened to belong to Aphrodite or Poseidon. And of course the original concept of an avatar is the descent of a god to Earth in the Hindu and Sikh traditions. How very fitting.

The exhibition also seems to be a cutting comment on the cult of celebrity:  these heroic and godly figures are put on a pedestal and idolised, yet they seem liable to public ridicule, in danger at any moment of being pulled down on the fleeting whim of the masses. In Ancient Greece they believed that through divine interference, people were just the playthings of the gods. It seems Hey Studio’s latest exhibition turns that relationship on its head.

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