Big Boys Toys
This summer, the prestigious Potter Gallery at the Art Gallery of Ballarat will look part Formula 1 showroom and part motoring enthusiast's toolshed as it is taken over by a show that will shock some traditional fine art aficionados and delight others who might not normally think of darkening the door of an art gallery.
While some visual artists seek to comment on society from the outside, with results that can seem incomprehensible, challenging or even rather pompous, there are others who are simply fascinated by what is happening inside our culture and their work, while perhaps less confrontational, can still be extraordinarily engaging and powerful.
Imagine an eight year old boy who is totally fascinated by Formula 1 racing and who is able, in our image saturated society, to see endless footage of the big races but perhaps not able to go to them as a spectator nor likely to sit in a Formula 1 car himself. What does he do? He makes a model of the car out of whatever there is to hand and plays with that model endlessly. In that child's imagination the model can be almost as satisfying, as powerful, as the real thing.
Eamon O'Toole's big boys' toys have something of that feeling about them except that the child has become an adult and the replicas are fantastically detailed and life sized. The feeling of excitement they engender and the sense of presence that they have are almost indescribable. But of course we are all grown up and we know these are replicas and therein lies another aspect of this work - a spark of humour directed at our childlike need to surround ourselves with things that bolster our feelings about ourselves. The artist is saying 'Go on, accept it - it is ok to want to be Mark Webber, I do.'