Earlier this week, Alistair Canvin presented his debut solo exhibition at Plan X Gallery in Milan. The show, entitled Do Not Over Inflate, presents a series of photorealistic paintings depicting deflated flamingoes, crocodiles and beach balls set against a backdrop of water-refracted pool tiles. The partial use of an airbrush captures the tactile, plasticky feel of those objects and evokes memories of holidays in the sun. At first glance, the work’s aesthetic appears to reference youthful simplicity and the carefree optimism of childhood. But, this obscures a conceptual focus instead on adulthood and, more specifically, the ebbing away of our hopes and dreams during those intervening years. The Bristol-based artist’s use of bold, primary colours appears like a false smile displayed to the world which intentionally jars against the reality within. 

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes how his protagonists, “drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.” In his meditation on lost promise, there is a kind of tangible inevitability to these unfulfilled dreams. However, Canvin’s body of work suggests far less predetermination; the valves have been opened and the air is gone but the rubber itself hasn’t been irreparably punctured and re-inflation is still possible. The still inflated adult’s life vest is a reminder of the dangers we face when our youthful potential goes unrealised, but it also serves as a totem for the possibility of revival, resurgence and even salvation. 

The show runs until 19th October 2023 at Plan X Gallery, Via Marsala 7, Milan 20122, Italy​.

Photo credit: Plan X