Review: Stuart Semple’s Suspend Disbelief, Heritage Rooms

Suspend Disbelief Stuart Semple

Stuart Semple’s solo exhibition, the first to exhibit new work in London for four years, is a playful look at how we view entertainment and our abilities to let go, to play and to – as the exhibition title suggests – suspend our disbelief. Spanning two floors within the beautifully unseen Heritage Rooms that sits alongside the Bloomsbury Ballrooms, Semple’s work combines bright and bold acrylic paintings with joyfully playful and interactive pieces that place the spectator within the heart of the work.

Semple’s paintings that make up the first floor of the exhibition stretch the understanding and viewpoints of entertainment. They’re often luridly bright in colour, with a quickness of slap-dash painting that resembles street art composed against a ticking clock. More often than not Semple’s paintings are witty commentaries on the entertainment of life, or those ideals of entertainment value and the figures that dominate our television screens. Bastian and Flakor Save Fantasia wonderfully captures the joy of flying in The Never Ending Story whilst Down by the Roller Coaster brings a Zoltra like madness to amusement parks.

In his series Hoodwink witty headlines are printed on vinyl and depict everything from fat cats owning women to Elvis controlling cows. Each piece within the series offers laugh-out-loud statements that give a hint towards Semple’s playful artistry. Not one to stick to form, the first floor culminates in an installation piece, Bloom. Perhaps the most simplest of pieces within Suspend Disbelief, we’re invited inside circular projection screens to watch as flowers bloom. Again, there’s some playful nuisance as you stare above from bean bags and realise the projection structure represents a peace symbol, and the flowers are a peaceful offering as they emerge and dissolve in pixelated slowness.

Stuart Semple Happy Cloud

On the upper floor Suspend Disbelief comes into real joyful play as Semple’s work takes on playful interactive form. In Jump we’re invited to kick off our shoes and jump on a fluffy air-filled bouncy cloud, with air that seeps out of seams and chills your feet as you bounce gaily. Whilst in Happy Cloud Semple creates soap bubbles in the shape of smiling faces that drift around the room before being sucked into wind turbines that then disperse bubbles frantically about the space. It’s often the most simple of actions and thoughts within Semple’s work that offer the most rewarding outcomes; joyful abandonment.

In the exhibition notes that carry an essay extract (replicated on his website) Semple notes that when we suspend our disbelief through facing the cycle of life to death, “we can start living”. At a time when my thoughts could easily be distracted by my personal going ons, Suspend Disbelief had me caught in that moment of joy, appreciating that art can take us out of our everyday complexities and give us a smile that floats across our face, or a lifting of our hearts as we jump in jubilation on a cloud. It’s a wonderfully playful solo exhibition that takes Semple’s conceptual look at the purpose of art and gives his spectators a joyful ride.

More information on Stuart Semple can be found on his website.