BY Zoey Mondt in Reviews | 06 SEP 07

Matthew Ronay


BY Zoey Mondt in Reviews | 06 SEP 07

At the end of every summer my sister and I would be recruited for a day to help my mother clean Kiddie Korner, the nursery she ran in a tiny, pale yellow house with a white picket fence. The only compensation came when it was time to collect up the felt figures that my mother used to illustrate the tales she'd spin at story time. Hand-drawn in black marker pen and cut from pieces of brightly coloured felt, the pictures were like hieroglyphics and served as the only mnemonic device for stories about the benefits of sharing and the twelve days of Christmas. They were carefully sorted out into a separate bag for each story - the bag marked 'Halloween', for example, might contain a black cat, a crooked brown fence, a pink rabbit holding a basket of eggs, a rainbow attached to a pot of gold, a smiling ear of corn and a pair of sad and happy Jack-o'-lanterns - and it was my job to weed out any interlopers. The diminutively scaled sculptures in Matthew Ronay's first solo exhibition are like mixed bags of home-made felt cut-outs. Littering the floor of the gallery like toys, ordinary objects act out allegories involving countless loopy narratives that invite speculation while remaining wonderfully ambiguous in meaning. To meander through the show's 22 miniature panoramas, hand-crafted combinations of wood, metal, paper and string, is to visit an abandoned flea circus that has been taken over by inanimate objects that freeze every time a human passes by. Almost all of the brightly painted works are less than knee-high, so you have to crouch down in order to get a closer look. In Air Intake with Seasons (all works 2001) a yellow autumn leaf balances precariously at the end of a pink plank which emerges from the yawning mouth of a ship's air intake while two other leaves watch breathlessly from below. In Marathon Spinner outside a blue and yellow striped carnival pool a red and yellow top poses triumphantly at the end of a beckoning, brown fingertip. In Hobo Sack a tiny bundle on a stick loses its nerve as it eyes the blue loop it must fly through from the green ramp below. Wig 'n' Hoop, one of the show's few pieces that you have to look up to see, features a blonde pigtailed wig and white hoop suspended separately by strings from the ceiling. As with all of the works, the scene has been frozen just before or just after the moment of climax and the viewer is left guessing what the grand finale might have been. Displaying a mordant wit that is both funny and melancholy, Ronay's lyrical vignettes can be seen as extended metaphors. In Ice Cream Perfectly on Three Blades of Grass two red mittens with tails like mice patiently observe the fate of a pink and grey ice cream cone that has fallen to the ground before a smouldering cigarette. An upended typewriter defies gravity as it balances on top of a single red apple in Gallager Quitting, and in Peacock on Cage Cover a peacock stands triumphant on a black blanket dotted with pairs of its own googly eyes. In other works a tiny matchstick scythe peers out from beneath the edge of a charred rug upon which stands a miniature fireplace set; an adorable, egg-shaped bat seeks shelter beneath a discarded handkerchief; a grasshopper must choose between an idyllic blue pond dotted with three-leaf clovers and a tempting green pasture cloaking a field of swords; and a pink elephant waits on a deserted beach, offering shade to no one on an overcast day by the sea. There is a flat sort of comic book beauty to Ronay's sculptures, exemplified by pieces such as Avalanche and Bucket of Opera Water, where vertically stacked pieces of plywood have been used to create jagged mountainous precipices and rippling waves of turquoise water. Despite their apparent whimsy and kooky accessibility, Ronay's works are more than just cartoon-coloured fantasy-scapes in which a multitude of stories spin off one another ad infinitum. These are intricate structures: magical tableaux that do not seek to deceive, but rather to express the pure nature of unbelievable circumstance that lies beyond the realm of probability and common sense.