THE CONNOR BROTHERS: ONCE WERE KINGS
The Connor Brothers' latest exhibition, 'Once Were Kings', sees a development of their much sought after Regression Series. The exhibition’s title is multi-layered, on the surface referring to the time that dinosaurs ruled the earth, but also bringing to mind the historical lesson that all empires come to an end, a poignant reminder given the urgency of the existential challenges facing mankind today.
The artist’s trademark use of text adds further layers of complexity and meaning to the paintings, at times humorous, and at others unsettling or deeply personal. The duo’s continued fascination with combining image and text in this instance anthropomorphises the animals they depict, attributing to them contemporary fears, hopes and anxieties, and there is a sense in which the dinosaurs represent the interior lives of The Connor Brothers themselves. When asked what the exhibition is about, The Connor Brothers reply in typically understated fashion that they just fucking love dinosaurs, but the truth is that their and our endless fascination with dinosaurs betrays our deepest fear, that each of us will ourselves die and become extinct, and that as a species we are headed for the same fate as our prehistoric ancestors. The Connor Brothers' ability to depict disconcerting truths with a lightness of touch is perhaps more evident in this body of work than any they have exhibited previously. There is a rawness to the paintings themselves that evokes childhood memories of rainy afternoons spent drawing, and it is worth noting that the Regression Series was born during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the artists undertook a series of art therapy classes, and were encouraged to practise Automatic Drawing, a process whereby sketches are made from the subconscious which often reveal childhood traumas and current obsessions and neurosis. As well as speaking to our shared fears as a species, the dinosaur paintings touch on personal themes from the artists’ past - addiction and mental health are often in the background, as well as the ghosts of past mistakes and childhood memories. Somehow, amongst all this, the paintings maintain a sense of the majesty of dinosaurs and their nobility as the most fearsome and extraordinary living creatures ever to have existed, and capture the essence of our obsession and curiosity about them.