I wonder whether Daniel Burley, the young British multimedia artist, pored over the memorably disgusting Fungus the Bogeyman when he grew up. He’d definitely have seen Shrek. And he’s clearly come of age in the noughties, the decade that fashion forgot, with its gross bootcuts and belly shorts.
All that’s gone in the aesthetic mixer for this show in the small GAO Gallery, just off the Mile End Road. Three “goblins”, green figures made of epoxy and steel, finished off with oil paint, galavant across the floor: tumbling over a log, gathering flowers, and clawing at the sky with sharp talons - painted with nail polish.
Their expressions are pretty horrible, but there’s something about those huge clown feet and uber bright clothes that makes Burley’s goblins more cute than threatening. On the borderline between monstrous and zany, they reminded me of Rinus Van de Velde’s clay models, which I’d seen and enjoyed at König last summer.
The goblins are idle, stuck in the forest in their weird fashions - according to the show notes, they had to scavenge for them, being “societal outsiders” out of all.
On the wall behind them, a few plywood sculptures, painted over, quite sloppily, in white. They blend in to the walls of this white cube, making it look like the walls themselves are bulging out in places. That’s intentional: making it look like the magical green bootcut beasts are warping the room to their will.
I was pretty enchanted, though I wonder how broadly this enchantment was shared - or if that even matters? There were a total of seven names on the wall-mounted artist’s book, and no pen for me to make eight. The exhibition’s been open for three months or so, and I went on the final day. As I turned to go, I realised that all three goblins had their backs turned to the gallery’s entrance, from which me and at least seven others had come to visit them.
These beasts are on the margins of society, after all.
Daniel Burley: The Intricate Live Habits and Rituals of the Goblin is at GAO Gallery (London). 06 June - 28 August 2021