Head Games 2015
* 1967 in Aberdeen
Cardboard, paper, tape, hot glue, plastic, glass, oil paint and ping-pong ball. Size: 23 x 22 x 4.5 cm. Framed.
£ 950.- + VAT
The title of the show is interesting to me, it’s another term in a long line of trying to describe what these objects actually are. For every painting, drawing or indeed sculpture I’ve made in the last 20 years, there has been a corresponding ‘object’. These have been described by me and others as: maquettes, models, props, studies, or simply as ‘sculpture’. You could of course also call them ‘preliminary studies’. That might make one think of an oil sketch by Constable or actually any number of ‘work-ups’ by nearly any artist, ‘work-outs’ or ‘try-outs’, rehearsals for more fully realised finished artworks.
In the context of Emanuel von Baeyer’s gallery programme of historical and contemporary cross-referencing one might also think of artists such as Poussin or Constable who were known to create mini-tableaux of clay figures and landscapes of broccoli, coal and moss as starting points or as compositional tools for creating their finished canvases.
My ‘models’ are never destroyed, they sit around the studio often for years untouched or are altered and adjusted, teased into another iteration to form the starting point for another painting or drawing. Occasionally, an object will be turned into a replica of itself in the form of a cast bronze or resin sculpture.
The objects in the show are made quickly and simply in a creative act that is borne of the need to find a form that I’d like to render on a flat surface. The flat art works are made slowly over a long time period whilst the rough and ready sources are completed in hours, but perhaps fiddled with and adjusted over a week or so before being photographed professionally. There is something theatrical in this part of the process, the umbrellas and lighting, the casting of shadows animating the object, conjuring it into some kind of life. It’s from this photograph that I primarily work keeping the model nearby checking for real space undulations that a photo can often lose.
At the recent Barbican show of Jean Dubuffet I picked up a copy of a new book by Hal Foster, ‘Brutal Aesthetics’ focussing on the work of artists Dubuffet, Asger Jorn, Eduardo Paolozzi, Claes Oldenburg and writer George Bataille. Foster looks to how these figures sought to develop a “brutal aesthetics” adequate to the post-war destruction around them. My accumulations of ‘trash’ might reflect a different time, but I think there are similarities in the images and objects I make that have much in common with these previous purveyors of junk art. My images are sort of, I guess, troubled, stressed, warped, maybe even at times angry and violent and it’s the contrast between this initial gestural energy and the slow labour intensive way the paintings and drawings are made that people often find interesting.
It has been amusing to me, listing forensically the materials used in each work: hot glue, card, paper, ping-pong balls, wool, tape, feathers, cloth, string, plastic coat hanger, pencil, pen etc calling to mind perhaps the roll call of junk included in an early accumulation piece by Arman, one of his de Poubelles (French for trash bins). It lends these small works a seriousness or gravitas, which in a sense is what the paintings and drawings also do: elevate bits of rubbish to the monumental or perhaps better, anti-monumental.
One might think there is a kind of crudity to these works, but I prefer Foster’s idea of a Brutal Aesthetic and there can be no doubt that it is here within these elemental constructions that my initial spark of creativity lies …ok they are not the highly skilled works of virtuosity that people might ascribe to my art but here at the very beginning of the process where everything is laid bare and there is no technique to hide behind, these raw facts are the key to my practice.
Neil Gall, London, November 2021.