Cameron Platter at Bell-Roberts
by Linda Stupart
Suave French boxer of the 1950s, Georges Carpentier, once said that 'life is very interesting when you make mistakes'. Cameron Platter's show, 'Life is Very Interesting' is an irreverent exploration of the artist's trademark quirkiness and sharp wit. I can't help wondering, however, if the exhibition is not perhaps too sharp, too slick and too faultless. What Andrew Lamprecht referred to as Platter's 'cultivated veneer of sleaze' is masked by a perfectionist aesthetic, where, perhaps, there could be more mistakes.
The works which make up the main body of the show appear on first glance to be huge digital prints of simple computer sketches. They are in fact pencil crayon drawings. These images have been transferred from an unsteady mouse scribbling in M.S Paint to an assistant's meticulous hand, endlessly colouring-in in one direction with pencil crayon. The least sophisticated of media is used to enlarge digital images, simultaneously upsetting and exalting the traditional artists' pantheon of hard work and effort. While the sentiment of this nostalgic medium is ambushed by its perfect, uniform execution, pencil crayon still places the artist as a child, dutifully recording the idiosyncrasies of the contemporary media assault on his troubled young mind, and making sure to stay inside the lines.
Platter's works are about, among other things, love sex, death, revenge and money - grand themes viewed here through the eyes of the embittered and delinquent love child of Quentin Tarantino and Dr Seuss. Platter's fantastical characters find themselves thrust into a luridly colourful scene of African corruption and Rorke's Drif landscapest, of Bond books, strip clubs and MTV-scale Jacuzzi scenes. The works all revolve around a story which is told in Life is Very Interesting: the Story in haphazardly scrawled, nearly illegible text. Luckily then, this story is not needed to explain Platter's more successful works on the show which illuminate the artist's assault on art, Capitalism, corruption and popular culture.
Some pieces though, particularly The Attack of the Zebras From Outer Space (The Second Coming...), a super kitsch and trendily retro UFO, are just a little too fashionable, too pretty and too decorative to hold their own next to the complexities and excitements of the other pieces. They are, on the whole, just too easy.
'Life is Very Interesting' is a great show, one that is very hard not to like, and that, I feel, is its problem. Platter has created witty characters and found an intelligent formula for creating stories for them. The question is, though, what next? Will Platter make endless pencil crayon sequels to this installment? Will he make his characters into soft toys, or keyrings or start giving tiny versions of them away with Chappies? And when every cool kid in Cape Town has rushed out to buy them, where will Platter be?
This is an artist who tried to teach a parrot to paint as his final year project at art school and, that having failed, he exhibited on the university's squash courts. While 'Life is Very Interesting' may well be one of the most engaging solo shows of the year, I think it would be more interesting if Platter started taking risks again; even though it might well mean making mistakes.
Opens: September 29
Closes: October 22
Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art Gallery, 89 Bree Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 422 1100
Fax: 021 423 3135
Hours: Mon - Fri 8.30am - 5.30pm, Sat 10am - 2pm