If… Lesley Guy

g39, Wyndham Arcade, Cardiff

Until Sat 20 Feb

Consisting of 24 illustrations made on paper pulled from a children’s colouring book, and stuck to the wall with single pieces of Blu-Tack, Lesley’s Guy’s Baby Animals possesses a naivety that jars nicely with its occasionally ominous content.

Taking pages from an animal colouring-in book and overlaying them with dense pen and ink drawings, Guy’s approach to image making is, she says, concerned with “mythos; a way of knowing that is intuitive and basic.” That’s not to say what she’s doing is all unstructured automatic writing, however. The defamiliarisation she enacts on the page is measured and purposeful, and the exhibition seems to showcase her progression through the process, from Chimps (Without Irony), which has no real embellishment whatsoever, through to Wild Boar (Belle et la Bete), which has gothic touches and bears barely any resemblance to its original.

The best of it is somewhere in between. Such pieces are ambiguous, unsettling and indebted to Gestalt psychology, as in Elephants (Now Try These), Badgers (The Manatou) and Orangutan (The Invisible Man) which both yield a number of different interpretations. These are also the darker pieces in the set, retaining parts of the children’s book, and exaggerating the implied malevolence of her drawing.

The motifs that recur throughout her work seem to reflect these attempts to uncover new ways of seeing: there are eyes all over her work. Images are mirrored and perspectives are distorted. In one piece, the entire page has been covered with a drawing of a scuba diver finding buried treasure.

It’s a striking series by an artist searching for new perspectives and, in the process, attempting to create a kind of symbiosis between the overlaid sketch and the original page.

Originally published in Buzz, February 2010