13 Aug, 2009

A creepy, crippled menagerie

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Her delicate drawings of grisly mutilations evoke warped fairytales and David Lynch-esque horror, but there’s a disarming beauty to them too

The world seen through the work of Rachel Goodyear appears to have suffered a psychotic episode: a bloody neck sprouts from the shoulders of a cherubic boy; a sleeping fawn exposes a withered human arm, splinted in the manner of a Victorian medical experiment. Each delicate watercolour by the Salford-based artist reveals a macabre horror, be it a raven pecking on a young woman’s cheek or the disquieting vision of two eyeless heads, chewing on a piece of cord. Yet, no matter how grisly the subject, the pictures are disarmingly beautiful, operating in a supernatural world of ancient folk tales where childish fears are nurtured into poetic fables.

Goodyear’s paintings have no backgrounds. Each picture is surrounded by an expanse of white paper, as if the characters have been plucked from a warped storybook: creatures live in the bellies of other animals, men emerge from the mouths of catfish and a bespectacled accountant’s lips are sucked into the coarse fur of a grisly bear. She is fascinated by twins and dopplegangers, and plays up the sinister cliches of telepathy and ESP. It means she is often associated, and rightly so, with artists whose cartoonish creations belie a latent psychosis – like Marcel Dzama and Amy Cutler – and she has (unsurprisingly, perhaps) cited director David Lynch as an inspiration.

In the winter of 2005, at 27, Goodyear was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She kept a diary over six months of chemotherapy, in which she sketched and recorded her observations of the medical world. She drew pictures of mummified men wrapped in bandages, animals impeded by neck braces, and women with deer and wolf heads. The works, which became a series titled Unable to Stop Because They Were Too Close to the Line, now have a permanent home at Fairfield Hospital in Manchester.

Why we like her: For Cats, Cold, Hunger and the Hostility of Birds, a book of illustrations featuring a bizarre menagerie of crippled and creepy creatures, published by Aye-Aye Books.

Gallery guide: Until 2005, Goodyear was the co-director of Floating IP, the cutting-edge contemporary art gallery based in the basement of a local architectural firm in Manchester.

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