OBSERVATORY: Frank Lunar's work at The Drawing Room.

PROJECT EDEN. A Solo exhibition by Frank Lunar. At The Drawing Room, 87 Station Road Observatory, until October 13. VALERIA GESELEV reviews

FRANK LUNAR sits on the edge of his mattress, facing a canvas that starts to take the shape of a pinkish female figure. It’s a day before the opening of his second solo exhibition Project Eden. The fifth and final portrait is still not ready. Elements of books, jars and brains start to pop up at the swing of his thin brush, with a touch of paint from the newspaper spread on the bedding. The colours’ pallet ranges from white, black to red. This choice leaves the paintings with plenty of pink, a brilliant aesthetic packaging for the content delivered. His take: “We are the fiction of yesterday. I'm trying to paint a picture of a world like that. We are dealing with manipulation here.”

It’s the next day, evening time on Friday, Imraan Samo is playing on his guitar with a screwdriver, creating harmony from scraps and marginal audio recordings. He stands behind the counter like a chef in a cooking show, playing with a range of toys – some electric. An urban self-appointed shaman, sipping on a can of coke. Performance and live art are a fashionable match these days, an almost must-have accessory at local arts events. Collaboration between musicians and visual artists are the ‘it’ thing.

Frank and Imraan are naturally born for this trend. They are not so much performing, they are jamming in a public space, relocating their bi-weekly rehearsals into a gallery. Effortless. Frank draws to the soundtrack of Imraan – a new scene from Project Eden, the fantasy world he portrays in this exhibition. A broom, a sad face, fairy-like ears, a character starts to appear on the paper in minutes. Frank is fast. People are starting to come closer to the small stage, drawn to it like magnets.

All this materializing from the idea: one day to paint, 20 minutes to deliver, two years to develop.

No one announced the opening. Derek Allison the owner cut the pink ribbon, and automatically the audience claps. It takes a few people to herd them to flow in slowly into the exhibition space, walking around the busy artist and his drawing stand, leafing through the sketches, thrown around casually. Some get comfortable on the cosy armchairs, others settle on the floor, having some beer. This is how Frank’s world feels – like the spiritual-experimental ‘musicscape’; the focused process of drawing; no need for privacy or sterility; the draft papers with personal art on one side, and children books illustrations on the other; friends chilling around. Overlooking it all are five huge thought- provoking portraits. These five pillars of Project Eden were given no names, only numbers – pillar #1 to pillar #5. You will have to figure out yourself.

He finished the fifth portrait in one day. It took him less than 20 minutes to move the five canvases walking alone from his bedroom to The Drawing Room, the new and only gallery in Observatory. This lovely bright space under the train station bridge looks like a neat and pretty coffee shop to an outsider passing by, yet the spirit of the place is much more interesting and layered. The cute neighbourhood setting is the perfect welcoming feel for the stories Frank is about to tell.

What does he want the random audience to feel as they walk in? “Intrigue. To try to figure out the meaning behind the pillars. People will recognize images, and will start asking why they are there,” he says. In the five portraits he re-contextualizes popular visual symbols – snakes, a microphone, a pig, a fancy chair, a frying pan, a USB stick, sexy thighs. He wants to have frank conversations, and he makes it ever more pleasant. Ever more appealing.

What is Project Eden? “It is a fantasy place with real-life references. Sci-fi vibes. Very dystopian. I’m trying to paint a picture of a world like that. We are the fiction of yesterday. This is what is happening right now – fake beauty that comes at a cost,” Frank says. It’s social commentary with a pink brush, “The fear prevents us from growing. The pillars are presented in the order they are exposed to you as you grow up – religion, education, money, media and fear.”

Frank has been working on this project for a while. It started as a series of bookmarks for the bookshop where he worked in the last few years in Sea Point. Checking concepts, exploring different directions, researching, reading, talking, listening, drawing, living, observing. It ended up as an exhibition just around the corner from his home. Here, in the Obs that he calls home for the past three years, where he is still often profiled by the ‘improvement district’ police, who miscontextualise his long dreadlocks.

Here he occupies a public space, and turns The Drawing Room into an extension of his own bedroom, his studio, himself; while opening the creative process for the audience, with its sounds, materials and a feel of freedom. An invention of a public thinking room?

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