Somewhere Between Madman and Saint

Ed Varney, Vancouver, 1996

It seems to me that Angus Bungay's recent mixed media sculptures deal essentially with issues of identity and illusion. His carefully crafted works speak both of restraint and liberation, of madness and of rehabilitation. He uses mask-like casts and leather and wood restraints both to disguise and to peel away layers of superficial appearance, to restructure our experience of the soul as it reveals itself in the face.
On the surface, his images are disturbing because they suggest both bizarre medical experiments and prosthetic devices that might have been used for surgical reconstruction of the faces of accident victims. The eye is a recurring theme, in most of the pieces one eye is blind or covered while the other stares unblinkingly at the viewer suggesting the role of vision in revealing what is real and what is illusion.
He creates his artworks from what are apparently found objects - but are they real or are they fabrications? Do they come from some more primitive time in our medical history where the reshaping of the human physiognomy into an appearance of normality by brute force was common... or are they machines spun out of the artist's imagination to coax out and illuminate the inner person? Are these the faces of madmen who have to be contained and caged to control them or are they the faces of saints who, despite mutilation and torture, shine with an inner peace and placidity?
These works do not give up their mystery easily. The viewer has to return each mask's unwavering gaze and to peel away his or her own superficial responses to grasp their real meaning.

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