A procession of colourful pom-poms guides visitors through Jock Mooney’s current installation at Vane gallery, to a large cake-like head of a Janus Cat, which commands the central focus of the exhibition. Named after the two-headed Roman God Janus (who looks simultaneously back to the past and forward to the future), the appearance of this congenital feline performs as a device for self-reflection, ten years since Mooney’s first exhibition with Vane. A platter of morose and euphemistically shaped beige biscuit sculptures are found scattered throughout the environment. Based on the artist’s staple imagery of severed limbs and charmingly lurid anthropomorphic characters, these enigmatic votive offerings to the Janus Cat parody the concept of reliquaries and shrines. One piece features coconuts cradling the trunk of a phallic palm tree.
The biscuit sculptures are echoed in a kaleidoscopic arrangement of Mooney’s detailed drawings on picnic blankets. Amidst the cakes and sweets rests a decrepit chocolate representation of the guillotined head of Marie Antoinette; bundled in a nest of used food packaging. On the gallery floor Antoinette’s zombified head occupies a carelessly discarded position, cheekily paralleled with a brazen turd sculpture tucked in a nearby corner. This latest beheaded idol casts the artist as a modern day Perseus (who in Greek mythology decapitated Medusa) and recalls Mooney’s 2012 severed head of ‘St John the Baptist (Fererro Rocher Remix)’. The notion of fantastical mutilation as self expression is supported by historian Frances Larson, author of ‘Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found’ who notes how ‘decapitation opened up a space for artists to wrestle with their demons and contemplate morality.’ (p117, Severed)
Completing the installation is a serenading choral soundtrack featuring chanting versions of pop songs coupled with original music compositions. The addition of the audio physically brings the artist’s voice into the work, strengthening the sense of personal expression, with light-hearted notes of self-deprecation. Elsewhere, a tea trolley laden with garish pom-poms carries an oozing chocolate cake featuring a comically fertile and absurdly erogenous three-breasted lady.
The eroticism continues in the second gallery space, comprised of recent drawings exploring themes of consumption, cultural excess and ceremonial activities in Mooney’s unique, intricate style. In ‘The Dysfunctional Rapture of Brassica Bumface’ a high-heeled, chunky legged figure stands on a mountain top. Her eyes bulge from her backside and an explosion of detritus bursts forcefully from her mane. The surrealistic and psychedelic female portrayal offers a witty comment on the absurdity of the sexual gaze.
Throughout this mirthful and allegorical spectacle, the visual language of cakes and biscuits evokes idioms such as ‘a piece of cake’ and ‘taking the biscuit’. This supports a view that Mooney has confidently matured in his abilities to perform the role of adolescent artist, having his cake and eating it with two fingers up and no concern to start producing ‘adult’ art, all the while remaining cerebral, provocative and daring.