carnivals toybox main


Written by Rachel Knightley

An artists’ exhibition of horror-themed toy art from around the world, this is also a personal narrative situated as firmly in time as it is in genre. Director, producer and writer Dan Brownlie’s Carnivals Toybox is co-produced with Jess Bonner-Brownlie and runs at Orbital Comics near Leicester Square until 17th March. It showcases work by a selection of toy artists from around the world who are influenced or inspired by horror. We are greeted/confronted on arrival by slashed masks of what Rob Zombie might have done to the Care Bears, these references providing eloquent and appropriately eclectic cultural parameters for the creations we will meet in the cases.


Click images to enlarge.

The narrative line between the strange creatures we might have pulled out of Kellogg’s cereal boxes to Brownlie’s films such as Self Induced Nightmares (2012) or Three’s a Shroud (2013) becomes clear through the objects and references – or, at least, clear to those of us who grew up with similar references. Brownlie has created an enjoyable environment for more or less anyone on the toy or horror spectrum and succeeds in showing how global the fears and sense of fun behind the art are. The exhibition has a real sense of personality, a real voice, which is exactly what any artistic product should have. What it’s crying out for, though, is more preaching to the unconverted. Being hosted by Orbital Comics is very likely to offer passing trade from people yet to discover how broad a church horror is, how much wisdom and humour it can contain, and the more an exhibition like this can offer in terms of background on the artists, information about their formative influences and why they were inspired by them, the more inclusive, approachable and welcoming the genre will appear.


Click images to enlarge.

I defy anyone to leave without wanting to buy some or all of the work of the featured artists. The only thing I would take away from the exhibition – not including the plastic toy collage-framed, silver spray-painted mirror, the creatures from the Many Faces of Laura Penn beasts and every single one of Brad Humble’s Grim Reapurs (“death has never looked so cute”) – is the modesty that stops the curator from more actively owning the story. The expectation that what we love will speak for itself is a common problem whatever side of the camera or pen you are used to, but this is an opportunity to give the uninitiated the same chance to fall in love with the same subject matter, genre, time and associations we were lucky enough to grow up with and build imaginative worlds on. Contextualising and translating that process and era for the general public is a joy that Dan Brownlie or another writer under his direction (I’m sure there would be a lot of us in the queue) could relish. Carnivals Toybox is well worth a visit in itself, but here’s hoping its next outing will be something even bigger and bolder because it certainly succeeds in making us leave wanting more.

The Carnivals Toybox runs at Orbital Comics near Leicester Square until 17th March.


Click images to enlarge.

Popular Categories




Join Us!


Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...