We attended the opening night for the Little Deities exhibition where sixty artists equated to sixty gods.

How does that work?

Well, you get one innovative illustrator and you hit him with a brainchild. He goes out and purchases sixty baby dolls, gets a few illustrator friends together and you have a culmination of artistic talent that pushes some boundaries. Although boundaries aside, there was a theme: each doll to represent a god of any doctrine, belief or world.

It’s certainly worth mentioning that all sixty artists are illustrators, not sculptors. Some famous illustrators in the list included Andrea Innocent, Ben Ashton-Bell, Suzie Byrne, and Sonia Kretschmar.

Originally pitched to the Melbourne City Council, the exhibition unfortunately did not win the grant. But where one door closes, another opens, and this proved to be a blessing in disguise as the idea for an exhibition came to fruition.

The ingenious idea of Daniel Atkinson, Little Deities, held at No Vacancy Gallery, was a showcase of what can happen when some sixty artists are allowed to play with dolls. Literally.

So they sculpted, painted, carved and created.

And the result was pure magic!

From the collection, Dean Jones’ and Kim Dainton’s ‘Twine’ was my absolute favourite. The zipper cut vertically across the face and down the body achieves quite a dramatic result as you imagine the hours dedicated behind each exact moment where zipper teeth meets plastic body. The thimbles acting as makeshift thorns ripping out each top section of the head have been painstakingly etched and marked with absolute precision and care. Bathed in a silvery hue, this baby was dark yet serene, there was something mysteriously beautiful about this particular god that simply haunts your memory for days.

And from the collection, Kate Moon’s ‘Megego, Deity of Unfounded Self Importance’ was by far James’ favourite. So creative and original, it detracts completely out of its original baby doll form. The body has been polished to a sheen so perfect, it reflects the gallery’s downlights. Teeth lining the open mouth look so real, they would make a dentist cry. The creature salivates hungrily and his tongue, marked with sores, sticks out at you with such reality, you almost hear the guttural depths of his growling stomach. You cannot help but stare in disbelief at the ugliness of this being, in all its glory of self-importance.

Complete with scarf, Nathanael Scott’s ‘The God of Time and Space’ pays tribute to Doctor Who. My sister would have loved this; she is a massive fan.

Organiser Daniel Atkinson’s ‘Massid, the Little Deity of Big Ideas’ looks ready to take on the world with bright red feathered wings arched as if prepared for flight. His chubby cheeks, emphasised by the two red dots and his red button nose, compel you to almost reach out and pinch him to check that he actually doesn’t move; he looks almost lifelike.

Levene Wong‘s ‘The Tiger Spirit of Niagatsol’ is a god that sits on a toadstool and shines a light on you as if to show you the compassion and light you seek in a deity with soft eyes. By covering the face with clay and repainting the eyes, she has managed to capture an expression of purity and grace in the little creature.

So the night we met sixty gods, we walked away enlightened, not quite by a religion that states the rights and wrongs of a life to live by or a path to walk against, but by the creativity that sixty artistic minds can project on one little baby doll.

Text: Nina Mostafa
Images: James Ser

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