Amour Efernal, by Luke Kopycinski

A fog of dark surrealism is blanketing a quiet pocket of London as Westbourne Studios provides a respite from the sugar-coated holiday season.  The intriguing themes of childhood duality from Victor Castillo and the fantastical sensuality of Luke Kopycinski offer a brooding refuge from a frozen capital.

For a self-styled underground gallery, London Miles lives by its niche market as the backstreets location is far from the beating path of shoppers.  However, those fortunate to navigate the endless maze of suburbia find a cultural oasis complete with palm trees, sofas, and a bar.

Within this courtyard space, Castillo’s nostalgic scenes of childhood deviance with a sideorder of American modernism are captivating.  His cartoon-style illustrations evoke memories of our own youthful misadventures, along with those of fictional anti-heroes like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer (1876).

Influenced by Disney and classic book illustrations, the Chilean artist has created a post-apocalyptic world with a fairy tale trim, populated by a sinister cast.  These hollow-eyed and sausage-nosed child actors perform innocent games with a fiendish twist in paintings such as Y Vienen Los Imbeciles (2010).

These violent acts are committed with compassionless naivety that satirises their parents’ penchant for death and destruction while reflecting on youth gang culture.  Harmless toys in the arms of cute urchins become weapons with cartoon overstatement, yet remain grounded in reality due to bleak lighting.

The suggestive fantasies of Kopycinski’s pieces suffer somewhat in a clash of theme and style in this group show.  Nonetheless, his blue-flamed sword and sorcery in Engloutie (2010) is strikingly reminiscent of the genre’s pioneer, Robert E. Howard.  Likewise, Amour Efernal (2010) smoulders with desire as the nebula-like explosions of light express the inner passion of a woman.

This exhibition is a festive treat for those that delight in gloom-drenched fantasy such as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  However, this mismatched pairing is ultimately one-sided as Castillo’s corrupted cherubs seduce budding scrooges into their evil embrace.

Victor Castillo and Luke Kopycinski at the London Miles Gallery runs until 10 January 2011.

Lie to Me, by Victor Castillo