Lora Zombie is sick - and I'm not talking about that unforgettable tag-name. With her use of dark satire and subversive pop references, the Russian-born "grunge" artist at first sight seems like another predictable product of the anti-capitalism urban art trend.
But there's something more digestible about Zombie's beautifully light and loose illustrative style which is no less impacting. Parodying Disney characters is nothing new I hear you scream, but Zombie designs in a way that is not excessive. She controls the chaos: initially what seems to be a random attack of splats and drips on a canvas turns out to be a masterful and disciplined application of paint.
There's nothing too deep or stifling about them either. They're not overloaded with political messages that will make your brain fry before you can even attempt to appreciate what they look like. They're just effortlessly cool, making them perfect to be appreciated purely for aesthetic beauty or for their Banksy-esque tongue-in-cheek rebelliousness. Either way, her minimalist style comes to define the artistic cliché that less can be more. You get the sense that Zombie enjoys absolute liberation during her creative process. She should be applauded just for putting Spiderman in a tutu...
But while Zombie injects humour into almost all of her pieces, it is her more sensitive and touching work which I'm really drawn to. I reviewed the portfolio of fine artist Joram Roukes recently, whose work I praised because of its terrifying beauty, its hilarious disaster... I could continue with the oxymorons until I buckled under my own pretentiousness. Anyway, Zombie (I have to stop referring to her like this) works in a similar fashion in terms of thematics, but uses a much more subtle and suggestive approach.
So many urban artists today seek out shock factor, and whilst they are still hugely effective, they can tend to force the viewer into submission by their subversive and violent imagery. They'll usually leave an aftertaste of bitter cynicism, too, which leaves not much room for any hope or redemption. But these pieces, despite their air of tragedy, always have some undefinable promise contained within them, as if to say, 'Yes, our situation is shit, but everything's going to be alright.'
Zombie recently exhibited at the Pandamonium show at Signal. With the current tidal wave of Superhero movies, it's no surprise that her own Depressed Superheroes collection was an instant hit. You could quite easily imagine these works as graphic prints for a gritty East London fashion label.
Also, visit her Facebook page at your peril, because you'll feel instant guilt once you're there. Not only does she have such a diverse range of works, but she's also got shit loads of them - up to 400 illustrations and oil paintings. I always thought her style was efficient, but jesus. It's no surprise her huge output of work has made her an international success.
All in all, Zombie uses her pop icons as clever metaphors for the absurdity of lofty ideals, the futility of superheroic dreams and aspirations in a contemporary society reduced to supermodels and overpaid footballers. There's only so much we can achieve as real human beings.
Wasn't going to let you get off that easy.