Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Peter Atkins is subverting the conventional way that we view art, and adding a twist that is equally psychological and nostalgic.
At first glance, The Monopoly Project appears to be a series of 26 abstract canvases painted with geometric lines and colours. They are simply angles and colour, yet they stir an emotional response in us. Suddenly, we become aware of their striking similarity to the title deeds from a Monopoly board. Through using nothing but lines and a single coloured square, Atkins evokes childhood memories that have been buried in our unconscious mind for decades.
"When these forms are taken out of context," Atkins says, "they often reveal a new way of interpreting the world around them." Calling his works 'readymade abstractions' in the vein of Marcel Duchamp, they exist both as a physical object and as a distinct memory.
As an adult in 2012, Atkins still has strong memories about playing Monopoly with his brothers and sisters in the '70s: the squabbling and bickering over who got to buy Mayfair first; title deed trade-offs; and the inevitable fabricating of rules that only are fair to the one making them.
The Monopoly board that is displayed alongside the canvases in the exhibition is the one that Peter played on as a child from 1973. Its edges are fraying, the middle is broken and it is covered with stains from the residue of childhood. Everybody has memories associated with icons like these, allowing us to partake in some kind of Jungian collective unconscious.
The paintings are displayed in the same order as an actual Monopoly board. Like human tokens, visitors become part of the game as they move around the exhibition space.
Are the canvases that are coloured royal blue for Mayfair and Park Lane more valuable than those painted purple for Old Kent Road and Whitechapel Road? Even though the elements of each painting are much the same, we are tempted to assign our own values. Their overt connotations subvert the reaction that we have to them, manipulating us in much the same way as Atkins has altered their form.
Peter Atkins believes that art's subject matter exists in the most everyday and banal of objects. He takes the images that we do not associate with beauty and makes us look at them with a curious eye. His first exhibition with Tolarno Galleries was in 1991. Over the past twenty years, his career has flourished into an exploration of a new concept in art: the connection between form and personal psychology. The Monopoly Project is an extension of this exploration and is a must-see insight into the corridors of childhood memories.
Press release courtesy Tolarno Galleries.