March 2008, Cannes Fusion 5 Festival

Brian Horton, October, 2008, courtesy Strychnin Gallery

Strychnin Gallery
Fusion 5 Festival
March 7 through 9, 2008

Despite the dark overtones ever present in much of their collective work, the group of artists represented by Strychnin Gallery are a merry bunch. And who can blame them for their glee, especially when the gallery ships 'em off for a dirty weekend in Cannes for the first (but probably not the last) Fusion 5 Festival? For those not fortunate enough to attend, Fusion 5 – hosted by Strychnin Gallery – was an amazing event, featuring twenty artists and fifteen musicians/DJs from five continents, all converging upon the design fabulous 3.14 Hotel located along the world famous Croisette.

Perhaps another reason for the artists' contentment is the cathartic release subsequent to dabbling in the creation of macabre and melancholy works. Indeed, when I suggested to one Strychnin artist, LA-based artist Kristen Ferrell, that she seemed to be a particularly peppy person, she immediately asserted, "That's because I make the art that I do!" Daniel Van Nes, an engraver from Rotterdam who describes his style as "high resolution escapism" had a similar summation: "Darkness is good."

 Mimi S, Metamorphosis, 2008, Strychnin Gallery

During the festival, each artist was assigned a room at the hotel and allowed to decorate it in accord with their own idiosyncrasies. Festival goers, when not mingling over free drinks and canapés in the 3.14's lobby, explored the hotel's halls in search of open doors, each leading to a unique artistic universe, some replete with throbbing beats spun by master DJs, other with quirky indie rock compilations from an artist's personal iTunes playlist. In addition to the phenomenal art and selective tunes, each room had a hefty supply of food and drink to further reward the attendees for delving into the different artists' worlds.

 Virginie Ropars, Je Suis Vers Toi, 2008, courtesy Strychnin Gallery

For the artists, during what at times seemed to be a non-stop onslaught of visitors (the hotel was packed for most of the weekend, especially Saturday night) the festival took on an almost surreal quality. LA artist Matthew Bone, surrounded by his photorealistic portraits of porn stars covered in banana splits or posing with big game taxidermy said of his Saturday night, "I'm just watching everyone get absolutely annoyed and disgusted with me … as usual. What else could you ask for in a night out in Cannes?" Of course, during my visit to Matthew's room the only people I saw were those mesmerized by Mr Bone's artistry.

 Strychnin artists David Hochbaum, Kristen Ferrell and Matthew Bone

Mesmerized or otherwise spellbound by the artists' works, throngs of art fans combed the 3.14's five floors until later that same night until prearranged shuttles whisked everybody off to the Palm Club at Palm Beach for more drink and music until the wee hours. A late start on a groggy Sunday (a buffet breakfast ran until 2pm) found everyone still in good spirits but sad to say goodbye to the atmospheric party weekend that was Fusion 5.

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is an American transplant living in London where he has a blast working as a freelance photographer, writer, consultant, blogger and more. 

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