Welcome to The Pop Up Gallery starring the work of Atlantis Banal! Who is Atlantis, you may ask? She is the latest creation of Shona Reppe, an award-winning maker of outstanding family theatre, in collaboration with Charlot Lemoine of Vélo Théâtre. And what a creation she is!
Before meeting Atlantis Banal herself, an artist born on the Island of Portmanteau in the North Sea, Beneath the Surface begins as the assembling audience is guided to the gallery space (aka Traverse 2) by two gallery assistants. Their dress code is Mondrian themed. One, Reppe herself, wears a tabard with a chic and jaunty red pillbox hat perched precariously on her corkscrew hairdo. Her male colleague, Graeme (Tamlin Wiltshire), who doubles as Technical Manager on stage, sports a Mondrian-style tie. The pair then treat gallery visitors to a set of safety instructions – wackily delivered in the style of an airline crew – which perfectly set the tone for the zany events that lie ahead.
When a bespectacled Banal herself appears, like a walking work of art, we are then invited to take a deep breath and dive beneath the surface into her arty world. Here, we experience Madame Banal’s ideas on what constitutes art. In this inclusive and interactive experience, we take an ingenious train journey; attempt primitive communication; watch film and take part in photography. Aphoristic questions about art, delivered with impish faux gravitas, pepper the exhibitions. But there are no answers to be found in this clever joke on the art world. The irony, of course, lies in this fun poking exercise at the pretensions of conceptual art, being created by a real artist whose creativity seems infinite.
Reppe has the capacity to bring her unique brand of twinkly quirkiness to any show she has a hand in. She leaves an identifiable fingerprint through the immaculate co-ordination of sound and action, as well as outlandish costume design. Yet her kaleidoscopic imagination manages to make each of her shows feel fresh, bursting with delights and surprises alike. The mesmerised smiling faces of children of all ages (the cliché of 8 to 80 applies) is evidence of their delight at this beautifully bonkers show.
A visit to any gallery is incomplete without a wander through the gift shop, and Banal’s exhibition is no exception; there are treats galore at pocket money prices after this fantastic family show.