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2011 Battle for the Day Before

Strange spirits pervade the works in Battle for the Day Before, writes Andrew Frost.

There's magic in Tanya Chaitow's paintings. People take on animal spirits, while strange meetings occur under moonlight. Animals assume human form and dance.

With a heady mix of pagan symbolism, Chaitow's work is a subtle reminder that Anglo-European culture has a long cultural memory, evidenced by a visual tradition that's part romantic and part Gothic fairytale. There's something in these images of dark forests, of animal avatars and lonely roads, that is undeniably evocative.

Chaitow's paintings tell odd and uncanny stories with contemporary props, such as assault rifles and cars, and although the modern trappings give these beguiling paintings an odd contemporary atmosphere, they have the insistence of a familiar yet half-remembered dream. The diptych The Agony of Waiting 1 and 2 (2010-11) represents the same scene, one in day and one in night, the slight differences in the two images prompting the viewer to try to unravel the ambiguous narrative.

The ominous foreboding of many of the images is leavened by a playful sense of humour: bees congregate around a woman with a beehive hairdo, a deer that hangs from a tree is counterbalanced by the Earth itself.

Battle for the Day Before consists of 51 paintings, many small and intimate, painted in acrylics on board. Chaitow's style appears at times immediate and perhaps a little rough yet the texture of the paint and the line work adds to the charming faux-naivety of the exhibition. Their magic will work on you.

Animal Instincts
15 April 2011
Andrew Frost
Metro, the Sydney Morning Herald