TH4Y – They Had Four Years
TH4Y is an annual exhibition held by GENERATOR that invites graduating artists around Scotland to submit proposals towards the production of new work. The newly commissioned work of 2014 belongs to the Brownlee Brothers, Flo Gordon, Jonny Lyons, Ailsa Mackenzie and Mary-Beth Quigley. The common bond that exists between the artists is that their practise resides in the idea of the conflicting desires of escapism from the expectations of day-to-day life. Alongside these themes there is the obvious shared use of humour and reflections on childhood that throws the viewer into a world of colour. The colourful works excite the viewer and entice them into an edible world of art.
The Brownlee Brothers are drawn to macabre folklore and urban legends in contrast to the initial colourful playground that belongs to Flo Gordon and Ailsa Mackenzie. The Brownlee Brothers have created a sinister atmosphere that radiates throughout the dim gallery through the use of their suspended bronze sculpture. They attempt to imitate an object such as a censer, associated with Free Masonry and Catholic ceremonies. The sculpture is filled with incense and burned each day. This performance in itself is ritualistic and challenges the dark and unsettling nature of secret societies and religion. The atmosphere that surrounds the object is overwhelming and is uncomfortable for the viewer. For the masses that are unaware of secret societies, they are able to consider the role they play in relation to our daily life.
To compliment this dark theme is the work of Jonny Lyons. Lyons work was inspired by St. Minias, the first Christian martyr of Florence. According to legend, Miniato was an Armenian king who became a hermit in a cave on the hill of Mons Fiorentinus. In 250AD he was denounced and persecuted for being a Christian as he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Miniato had undergone various torments, most of which he emerged unscathed and eventually he was beheaded. Lyons creates a film that considers the beliefs of Miniato in conjunction with the ideas of lost boys putting their outlandish ideas into practise. Alongside the screening of the film, Lyons has created a functioning sculpture of a wooden gun that is displayed on the gallery floor. I fail to see how Miniato relates at all to Lyons’ film. The wooden gun is pointed at a man’s head continuously. It appears more suicidal than any kind of respect to Miniato although it could be viewed very loosely as a statement to the saint’s martyrdom. I appreciate the craftsmanship of Lyons’ work however the tribute to St. Minias appears to be a cock and bull story to complement the gun.
This leads onto the colourful work of Flo Gordon. Gordon is interested in colour combinations and the irregularity of shapes. Sensory perception is a key aspect in the artist’s work with what looks like a giant cake portrait of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Alongside this, placed on the floor are duvet fried eggs that resemble giant Haribo. Flo is considering the concept of edible colours and contains a humorous approach. I was lingering in the gallery with the hope to reach for a giant Haribo. The garish colours clash with the darker themes of The Brownlee Brother’s and Lyons’ work yet it provides a lighter atmosphere leaving the audience to reminisce of childhood dreams.
The GENERATOR is a great venue in Dundee for emerging artists. It is unfortunate that the city offers a lack of gallery space for upcoming artists and I admire the strength of the GENERATOR projects to aid artists from Duncan of Jordanstone and also from other art schools across the country. As a recent graduating artist myself I understand the difficulties that they all face.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Flo Gordon on life after art school and quizzed her on the very issue as well as her art work and more;
DF: Your work is very playful. What was the initial inspiration behind these works and have you always been interested in these ideas?
FG: I have one rule that I make work by and that is: do what you want. I make a lot of my art without question until it’s finished and then I’ll figure out what compelled me to make it – there’s always a reason. I have lots of different interests but the most prominent in my work to date would be my belief in instinctive humour, the psychological effects of colour, abstract ideas of faith and the way in which modern science threatens our sense of reality in benign ways.
DF: Was Mr Blobby a personal favourite of yours or does he have a deep cryptic meaning?
FG: I actually hardly ever watched Mr Blobby when I was young because he freaked me out. Though every time I saw him, then (and now), I would think of cake. I love ‘edible’ colours and how they speak directly to your sub-conscious urges.
DF: Life after art school was always going to be hard. How did you find entering reality?
FG: I had a few great opportunities given to me which have kept me busy for most of the year so I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense. However, the change in working environment was quite hard to adapt to. After University I moved home because it made sense financially. At University they tell you about the problems with money and juggling jobs with your practice but they never tell you about how lonely it can get working on your own. Some people work well in solitude but I was surprised to find that I benefited from a lively environment. I now live away from home and have gotten myself a communal studio space. I half-jokingly explain to people that I am paying for my mental health.
DF: Do you have any advice for the current emerging graduates?
FG: Apply to everything. There are a lot of opportunities that are for recent graduates only, so lap them up while you can. Even if you don’t think you’re quite right for the application or vice versa, have a pop at it because a lot of these things are pretty flexible.
Brush off the rejection e-mails. With lots of applications, come lots of rejections. If you compiled a list of all your favourite artists and had to choose just one… it’s really hard! Just because you didn’t get it doesn’t mean your crap. Keep the faith and keep working.
Do what you want. Don’t feel confined to the art you made at University. I’ve met ‘established’ artists whose art totally contradicts their personality and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been pigeon-holed into a type of work for which they are admired but they don’t necessarily like themselves. To me that seems sad like sleeping through your holiday.
Don’t be a pushover but don’t be a dick. This comes from personal experience and interactions with galleries; If you have a vision, don’t feel embarrassed to re-iterate instructions that are important to you. However, be considerate, respectful and generally an all-round lovely person because that helps with everything.
DF: Do you think it is important to encourage emerging artists and do you think that they have a place in society today?
FG: Absolutely. We are definitely outcast a little and that’s mostly because people are fearful of those they don’t understand but all you have to do is talk about your work in layman’s terms once in a while.
DF: Do you have any plans for the future?
FG: I’ve just come to the end of quite a busy period so I’m just starting to make some new work and properly enjoy my new studio http://thenumbershop.org which coincidently will have a few shows on this summer.