Peter Dobbin

Exhibition: Peter Dobbin
Venue: The Norman-Rea Gallery, Langwith
Rating: ****

The Norman-Rea Gallery is trying something new. Concept art, used in video games and advertising, has been slow to gain recognition by the art world and is rarely exhibited. However, following the success of such graphic artists as Banksy, the boundaries are starting to blur and there is growing acceptance of more popular mediums. The Norman-Rea Gallery has taken this to heart in their latest exhibition featuring Concept artist Peter Dobbin.

The exhibition contains a mixture of design projects for commission and more personal projects of storyboards, sketches, posters and a large-scale drawing created live by the artist on the opening night. Characters, environments and storyboards from projects for Playstation, PSP and Nintendo Wii, illustrate the difficulties for a Concept artist to visualise the ideas put forward in the client’s brief. The results are complex and dynamic images, which fuse traditional pencil sketching with computer imaging software for adding shading and dramatic effect. Despite the obvious skill in creating these images, they lack some thematic substance when out of context. Whereas Dobbin’s personal projects reveal his passion for tackling contemporary issues which affect his stomping ground of East Hackney, London. Themes of social exclusion, disability and prejudice, depravation on Council Estates and class identity struggles pervade the work. It may read like a depressing list of Labour Party failings but in fact, Dobbin deals with such themes with darkly humorous panache and in a medium that engages a younger audience. This contemporary focus of the work may explain the large reception the exhibition received on opening night with a notably large presence from the student body.

The middle class, middle England, art gallery visitor may question the use of Photoshop within the work (Dobbin says that it’s great to use for the undo button) and may not appreciate some of the more graphic sketches (including Squid boy in penetrative sex using a tentacle). However, Dobbin seems to be aware of such criticism, hence the inclusion of his sketches from life drawing classes. He relishes the classes as a chance to be “forced to tell the truth” when sketching the human body and points out the benefits for increasing the speed of his work, however the pieces on display remain true to his highly stylized technique which is divorced from reality. More enjoyable is the dark humour which saturates the personal projects and comic strips. Such satirical commentary combined with innovative use of an underestimated medium makes the exhibition a refreshing break from more traditional shows and well worth the visit for video gaming and art fans alike.

Peter Dobbin is showing at the Norman-Rea Gallery until Friday 22nd May. All prints are for sale, with prices starting at £10.

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