Taken collectively, the pieces that make up Altered State don’t so much catch the eye as hold it at gunpoint. Lenticular photographs (a style that creates the illusion of depth for a pseudo-3D effect) jostle against flaring neons, jagged graffiti tags and blazing searchlights of illumination.
The subject matter is wide ranging: skull faced portraits of the queen jostle against local geography reimagined as alien landscapes through arresting blasts of colour. The searing colours that permeate the exhibition suggest psychedelia in the manner that a forest fire suggests heat.
In the series of portraits of Trellick Tower, the brutalist high rise burns against malevolently fuming skies like a grim tombstone for some long dead species. The lenticular paintings are even more arresting: Life After Death is an enormous skull formed out of pound notes cut and shaped into butterflies that serves as the centrepiece of the exhibition.
With the lenticular effect giving the painting the illusion of depth and motion, the skull undulates as the viewer walks past, with the butterflies almost seeming to writhe. The artworks seem to resent being confined to a mere two-dimensions and practically erupt out of the frame as you approach them.
The overall effect is rather staggering, a day-glo playground that tends towards the monolithic. There are recognisable elements of both street and pop art to be found throughout the selection but it’s that feeling of exploding out towards the beholder that really gives Altered State its distinctive flavour.
It’s easy to see why the two artists were drawn to each other, the demarcation between Pearce’s mixed media artworks and Burridge’s photography can be hard to establish as the two mesh their styles so effectively it’s hard to find the seam where one ends and the other begins.
Whilst talking to the pair it’s easy to see why, their enthusiasm for the project and for each other’s work is practically a physical presence in the conversation. Both are possessed of a wry humour about the work (“Under the mattress” was the answer given for the source of the pound notes for Life After Death) but both seem enlivened by the other’s methodology.
Burridge has spent years experimenting with illumination (literally putting a portrait against lighted glass in the same fashion as an advertising hoarding) which features on several of the pieces, proving almost as striking as the lenticular work in making the works jump out at the viewer.
In a single room gallery, there is always a danger that larger pieces can overly dominate the space, a concern that is doubled when half of the works are rendered in a pseudo-3D that requires the viewer to stand well back to get the full experience.
Luckily, 99 Projects seems to be subject to its own personal optical illusion; with the seemingly cosy space proving deceptively roomy. As an exhibition, Altered State’s maximalist approach runs the risk of provoking a kind of aesthetic overload, but 99 Projects is an ideal size to prevent such ocular exhaustion.
The exhibition offers a bold burst of energy for the receptive audience and anyone in the mood to have their hair blown back during a day out and about in Notting Hill could definitely do worse than entering an Altered State.