The Unlimited Dream Company @ Hannah Barry Gallery

The Unlimited Dream Company
Hannah Barry Gallery

Richard Butler, Stevie Dix, Oliver Dook, Angelique Heidler,
Lewis Henderson, Ralph Hunter-Menzies, George Rouy, Rosie Grace Ward



“You can lean against us, we’re quite real.”

In J.G. Ballard’s 1979 novel, The Unlimited Dream Company, protagonist Blake explores an exotic universe after he survives a plane crash (from a plane he stole), emerging after a struggle from the ruins beneath the surface of the River Thames to a topsy turvy version of the suburb of Shepperton, which comes complete with his new powers to heal the sick and fly. It becomes unclear whether he really ever survived the crash at all and whether the whole thing is some sort of life flashed before my eyes death sequence. He is the ultimate unreliable narrator, his existence itself is dubious, and his identity questionable.

Hannah Barry has named her latest exhibition after this novel, and presents us with eight artists (or maybe 8 unreliable narrators) that explore the seductive edges of contemporary life. Like the novel, it is a succession of images held together in a unifying landscape- yet totally surreal in its mixture of reality with artificiality, all of which go totally unexplained, yet leave you gently unnerved.

In typical modern day dystopian fashion, within this landscape Ollie Dook gives us a cartoon, anthropomorphized monkey narrating a visit to a depressing looking zoo in his video A Reflection on a Visit v2, to a backdrop of music akin a 1950’s Hollywood movie. His monkey says:


I think there are several reasons why society needs zoos. 


If we confront ourselves face to face as human beings, it is often very difficult to realise quite how human we are. Whereas if we concentrate all the animals in the world into one place and fasten them into little enclosures like this, where we can watch them behaving in their reduced, rather primitive simple instinctive animal way, our own humanity is emphasized and we can emerge from the zoo with a sense of human pride and a sense that we are something special. Special distinctions and extraordinary achievements which animas can never aspire to. 


You can see the video in full here


Angelique Heidler paints a creepy and rather dazed looking Tweety in Killer Donkey- named as such assumedly for the donkey trotting away from his victims left hanging from a tree, in iconography very similar to the lynchings that occurred in America in the late 19th, early 20th century. Or maybe The Conjuring. It’s unsettling, not least I suppose because such dark imagery is in contrast with the popular cartoon imagery and plastered on what could be your grandmother’s tablecloth.

Angelique Heidler Killer Donkey 2016 Acrylic and oil on tablecloth, spray paint on cardboard tubes 180 x 120 cm AH0003

Behind Rosie Grace Ward’s overflowing fake blood in Tetsuo (deriving from the Japanese horror film) Geoge Rouy’s ghostly looking figures emerge from the wall. Despite being in shades of red, they almost melt into the deep blue backgrounds whilst appearing vulnerable and not a little uncomfortable, confined to their spaces in a confusion between inner and outer worlds as they peer into and through the viewer. Tower, in contrast, depicts a glowing pink swan, which reads to me as having an undercurrent of a mythological Leda and the Swan type narrative. Stories seem to underpin these works, just as Ballard’s Blakean novel underpins the exhibition, in a way that continually treads an uneasy fictionality.

In the end, Blake comes face to face with a drowned pilot, which turns out to be himself. The repressed is finally confronted as living and dead are revealed, and thus internal and external reality exposed, transforming human perception.

George Rouy Stutter & Tower 2017 Acrylic on Canvas 56 x 46 cm


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.