“I’m the Devil. Now kindly undo these straps!”
So commands the demon in possession of the young Regan McNeil’s body when he comes face to face with Father Damien Karras in the 1973 cult classic The Exorcist. The possessed Regan remains to this day the ultimate villain and victim, a flesh vessel for the devil and a most terrifying yet fascinating antagonist. She is both heroine and heroin for a generation of horror film junkies like Toby Raine.
Raine’s appreciation for subculture, repartee, irony, and satire is manifest more so than before in his new series, Heroines and Heroin. He addresses themes of addiction and euphoria, possession and courage, emulation, and ultimately, admiration through the regular line-up of classical and contemporary film characters and musicians to explore close relationships both fictitious and real. There is a shift, perhaps a natural result of his personal life, from masculine subjects to female archetypes. Images of the mother, child, bride, beauty queen are featured alongside lead characters from previous exhibitions, with Raine often redressing prior subjects on new scales and new surfaces.
In Raine’s new series, the bones of his surfaces have become larger to address the ‘problem of painting’ as an absurd but necessary act. For each painting he thoughtfully selects the size of the canvas, stretcher bars, media, and subject. These larger structures allow for the verve of performative brush strokes, while also providing for the weight of thicker, fleshier layers of paint to build up. While some areas of the canvas grow thicker skins, in other areas clumps are scraped back into splatters, exposing the naked, vulnerable surface underneath. Often Raine will rework once discarded paint scraped off from failed faces to form the scabs of new paintings. The resulting works reveal the act of stripping back subject to the basic elements of oil over fibre, flesh over bone, clothes over skin.
Little trace remains of the recognisable picture of the subject Raine so pedantically selected. Mud, oil, and fibre, the flesh and bones of the painting, allow each painting its individual sovereignty; there is no prerequisite to identify the iconographical intricacies. But for those who are in on the joke, who recognise quotes, movie scenes and lyrics – the straps are undone and the axe comes down to unleash the chortles. If I say "Here's Johnny” perhaps you see the Munchian scream of the trembling, hysterical Wendy Torrance, from The Shining. Perhaps it means nothing to you, and you Walk On like Neil Young.
- Janie van Woerden