Grotesque products from dark materials at Coventry art gallery

Adie Blundell, His Dark Materials, on display at the Herbert gallery in Coventry.

Adie Blundell, His Dark Materials, on display at the Herbert gallery in Coventry.

Adie Blundell, His Dark Materials, Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry. On until March 17. Call 024 7683 2386.

WITH an eclectic mix of found materials, the artist Adie Blundell reminds us that there’s a particular pleasure to be had in art that’s derived from unlikely sources that in the case of his row of wonderfully grotesque heads, could easily have been the bottom of the sea.

They sit in dumb obedience on their plinths like First World War squaddies who’ve been over the top too many times; a ragbag guard of honour that dominates a show full of fascinating objects culled from just about everywhere and put to unexpected use in the service of art.

It’s a modern method of image-making familiar enough by now to yield its secrets without too much head scratching. Blundell is good at it. While always respecting the unique qualities of his source materials, he is not averse to turning them upside down and inside out in order to yield other meanings, as with a parabolic mirror and sewer pipe whose combined forces produce the unlikely outcome of a maze in a mirror.

Some of the displays deliberately mimic the look and feel of a dusty museum collection. A set of fiendish instruments in his Cabinet of Curiosities strikes a masochistic note that is taken up in a set of drawers where you can look straight into his magical world.

All this is overseen by a giant pair of drawings of evil-looking ravens on adjacent walls and accompanied by the occasional voice of Moby Dick bemoaning his fate on the gallery floor.

The show’s title comes from a passage in Milton’s Paradise Lost where the purpose of dark materials, we are told, is to create new worlds. Blundell operates within the spirit and meaning of the phrase and does so with great conviction and a good deal of flair.

Peter McCarthy


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