Ceri Hand Gallery’s Project Space launches with artist Mel Brimfield’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, which sets out to explore the enduring romantic image of the heroic artist as a conduit of violent creative passion.
The Project Space and exhibition present a taste of things to come in advance of Ceri Hand Gallery launching a new permanent gallery space in central London later this year.
The extraordinary range of Brimfield’s practice is reflected in this exhibition: she selects music, writes and directs the scripts and films, makes all the props and sets, enabling her to fully collaborate with actors, opera singers, photographers, artists and musicians to create the final works.
From mainstream and academic approaches to conveying cultural history, the idea of the suffering artist thrives: artists with mental illness, drug addictions and promiscuity problems range from Rothko, Modigliani, to Tony Hancock, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Brimfield invites us to reflect on why this myth is so persistent with the potent and much lampooned eroticism of Ovid’s Pygmalion myth at the centre of this new body of work.
The title for the exhibition is taken from a trailer for ‘Lust for Life’, a Vincent Van Gogh biopic starring Kirk Douglas.
Between Genius and Desire – Jackson (after Ed Harris) and Between Genius and Desire - Vincent (after Kirk Douglas), 2012 are two new films by Brimfield that focus on movies about artists, including Ed Harris’ unintentionally comic turn as a moist-eyed, thick-skulled Jackson Pollock, lumbering dumbly about the studio like an injured bison to the thrum of inexpressible emotion in his Hollywood biopic, and on Kirk Douglas’s tortured gurning in his portrayal of Van Gogh in ‘Lust For Life’. Condensing their performances into fragments of their most emotive monologues, Dickie Beau presents a composite portrait of a ‘great artist’ revealed through a variety of clichés – the emotional register ranges from hysterical and desperate to the ecstatic and violent. Extending the drag tradition of lip-synching, Beau’s complex performances address the construction of gender identity and celebrity personalities.
Also presented will be a series of photographs of Dickie Beau performing climactic moments in the lives of Van Gogh and Pollock. Points of the film will be highlighted and re-created as static tableaux, such as Van Gogh cutting his ear off in Vincent (Portrait with Bandaged Ear), 2012 or Pollock posing for Hans Namuth in his studio ‘at work’. Throughout, Beau will embody the high drama of the Hollywood re-creations of these moments, but in costumes that demonstrate the clownish ‘drag’ of it – his trademark over-drawn red mouth and whited up face will feature throughout with a series of low-end wigs, props and costumes, (with backdrops painted by Brimfield).
At the heart of the exhibition is The Sculptor’s studio, 2012, an installation which draws on famously preserved artists’ studios, featuring instantly recognisable artefacts – from Van Gogh’s yellow chair and Bacon’s mirror to Pollock’s paint-spattered floor. Endless drawings, contact sheets and maquettes (all made and sourced by Brimfield) are juxtaposed with magazines, newspapers and texts (also written by Brimfield). Photographs propped and pinned around the studio are all works by Brimfield, created in collaboration with dance troupe the Beaux Belles.
Projected within the studio is the film He Hit Me…and it Felt Like a Kiss*, 2011, made in collaboration with jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and accompanist Paul Higgs. The piece directly appropriates Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sentimental torch song Memory, from the musical Cats. Staged like something one might see on a live daytime chat show, Brimfield has adopted the emotional mechanics of the number to narrate the story of a half-finished sculpture, abandoned by ‘The Sculptor’ at the moment of becoming. The idea of giving a voice and an interior life to a sculpture is darkly humorous, but the film aims to more directly articulate the weird eroticism of a man spending hours in the privacy of his studio making a woman much like in the Pygmalion myth.
Also included in the exhibition is a film from a series of Alan Bennett inspired monologues, made in collaboration with actress Joanna Neary, who gives voice to the uneven historical representation of ‘great artists’ in the art world. In Clement Greenberg – Lee Krasner = Jackson Pollock, 2011, Lee Krasner is re-imagined as a downtrodden, dowdy Home Counties frump and Pollock is reduced to a helpless feral dog-like caricature – smashing things up, pissing on carpets, chasing balls and hanging his head out of the car window with his tongue lolling – a version of Pollock’s much discussed alcoholism and primitive urges. Krasner puts up a relentlessly optimistic front despite Greenberg’s blatant misogyny and the art world’s complete disinterest in her as anything other than Pollock’s carer.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Book signing - 6.30pm, Thursday 12 July:
This is Performance Art - Mel Brimfield
A new monograph on the artist published by Black Dog Publishing will be signed by the artist at the exhibition preview.
Artist’s performances - 9pm, Thursday 12 July: New performances by gallery artists Mel Brimfield, Bedwyr Williams and Rebecca Lennon
Mel Brimfield was born in Oxford in 1976 and lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include This is Performance Art – Part 2, Experimental Theatre and Dance, LICA, Lancs., 2012; This is Performance Art, Performed Sculpture and Dance, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, Mead Gallery, Warwick, 2011 and Camden Art Centre, London, 2010; Waiter Waiter There’s a Sculpture in my Soup: Part II, Performance Art and Comedy from Gutai to the Present, Pumphouse Gallery, London, 2009. Recent group exhibitions include Memory of a Hope, Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, 2011; LOCATE 3, Jerwood Visual Arts, 2010. Recent performances include This is Performance Art - Part III: The Conceptual Burlesque of Nice Style the World’s First Pose Band, the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 2012; This is Performance Art, The Whitechapel, London 2011; Trashing Performance, London, 2011; Intergender Wrestling, London Word Festival, 2011 and The Breakfast Sculpture, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, London, 2011.
Ceri Hand Gallery has relocated from Liverpool to Ceri Hand Gallery Project Space, 71 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2 in advance of launching a new gallery in central London in late 2012. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 6pm
The exhibition following Mel Brimfield: Between Genius and Desire at Ceri Hand Gallery Project Space will be S Mark Gubb: Third from the Sun, 31 August – 29 September, Preview Thursday 30 August 6.30pm – 8.30pm.
For images or more information on the artist, the exhibition or the gallery, please contact Ceri Hand on 07891 594140 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cerihand.co.uk
*He Hit Me…and it Felt Like a Kiss was co-commissioned by Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and Performance Matters, a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London, Roehampton Institute and the Live Art Development Agency financially assisted by the AHRC