For the second year, Camden Arts Centre has partnered with Artquest to support a group of artists with the funding, space and resources to establish and organise their own peer mentoring network. This year’s PEER FORUM is led by Alicia Tsigarides who has invited ten other artists to meet over the course of a year and form a group to support, critique and feedback on one another’s work. The artists involved this year are Leah Carless, Katharine Fry, Rebecca Jagoe, Olivia Brazier, Annie Attridge, Lindsey Mendick, Alicia Reyes McNamara, Holly Hendry, Mindy Lee and Tenant of Culture.
In the first of a new blog series, Alicia Tsigarides introduces the aims of the group and documents their first session.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring together a group of my contemporaries who I find exciting. I established this network of eleven artists in order to examine the different representations of femininity within our work. As artists we all share interests, each dealing with the body in erotic, grotesque and humorous ways. As life experiences spill into all of our works, I seek to examine the role of the artist’s biography in contemporary artistic practice. We are each passionate about materials and making processes and through discussion, I want to question the importance of the relationship between gender and materials. While reflecting on the past, I want to identify the current strategies used to define or disrupt ideas of gender.
At the first PEER FORUM session, we each introduced ourselves and our practices. Bringing together our diverse approaches — ranging from the kitsch and provocative to the intimate and opulent — led to dynamic conversation. Discussions were exciting and revealing as relationships, memories, secrets and fantasies were shared. Works indulged in the pleasures of life, using silk, latex, pearls, oversized heels, Ferrero Rocher, buttery crumpets, whipped cream and other delights. There was a shared hunger for the tactile, the desire to experience the sensation of clay between fingers, yet control was exercised. Tasks and duties were completed and works were framed, edited and staged in post-production. There seemed to be complete control and lack of control. The first session was a celebration of being human and acknowledging the physical reality of being flesh. Rather than apologising, resisting or fighting, this strategy involves listening, embracing and reshaping. — Alicia Tsigarides
In order to get to know each other’s work better, the artists decided to introduce one other’s practices:
Olivia Brazier carefully hand collages clippings from soft porn pin-ups, food photography and domestic interior magazines. Her works borrow from the distinct aesthetics of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Using puns and wordplay in her titles — for instance, Lick me to ma toes, Arseberry and Don’t Leaf Me This Way — she makes a carry-on of the sublimation of sex into food. In rooms designed for preening not play, she deftly juxtaposes images of melons, pears, apples and tomatoes with slick, shiny, surfaces of desire. On the coffee table, in the bedroom, all over the china collection and cushion covers. Cut up, cut out, stuck down. Bursting fruit breasts spill out of lace and stonewashed jeans over chintzy dream homes. You could eat them up, her raspberry curves and chicory hips. Tickle, touch, taste, repeat, repeat, repeat. Such desires are staged to never be satisfied. — Katharine Fry
Alicia Reyes McNamara consciously employs signifiers of the western interpretation of Latin culture, incorporating props and party decorations, fake fruits and Mexican inspired prints. Using installation, painting, sculpture and video she explores the notions of displacement, sexuality, food and consumerism, fuelled by the culturally insensitive comments she encounters as a Mexican American in the UK. Her video piece Abajo de la tierra explores the juxtaposition of memory and her intrinsic experience of rituals and relics, versus the flattening process of cultural voyeurism and commercialisation. It shows her elaborately decorated hands digging through the dirt, looking for the mysterious objects her grandmother buried in the garden. During her residency at South London Gallery Alicia explored the non-binary approach of being of mixed heritage, focusing on the Latin-American term mestiza being a mix, or ‘everything at the same time’. — Tenant of Culture
Alicia Tsigarides’ work is triggered by passionate states of desire and the impact they have on the body. These moments are fetishised and fragmented to focus on the puckering, pushing and distortion of flesh and fabric. Squeezed, pinched, and pulled bodies go through a controlled transformation into idealised, seductive symbols that can reference jewellery and adornment. These symbols are used to pull and manipulate more formal, abstract constructions and to return our thoughts to the figure. Current work uses imagery from LP covers to create representations of the female form experiencing pain and pleasure. These found images are already heavily airbrushed into unreal, highly stylised symbols of desire and Alicia dresses the images with fetishised garments using silk, lace and zips to emulate a strip tease, concealing and revealing. By further removing our access to these iconic figures, they further transcend into a utopian, inaccessible moment of unobtainable bliss.— Mindy Lee
Annie Attridge’s practice records everything naughty that happens in her life. Memories, love stories, fantasies and fairy tales are all captured in mono-prints and translated into porcelain sculptures. Bodies become entangled and inseparable in her miniature porcelain orgies. They contain masked lovers and private acts we shouldn’t be looking at, but are drawn to. It is all consuming love, where two become one. Reversing the monumental, her intimate fragile works are presented on unstable concrete plinths — metaphors for a relationship built on troubled foundations. Annie has an intense relationship with her porcelain sculptures. She lives with her work, nurtures it and tends to its daily needs. Watching it dry, filling in any cracks, adding moisture when needed, the porcelain grows under her watchful eye. Finished with chocolate chips, gold leaf, and glazes, her work is physical and intoxicating. — Alicia Tsigarides
Tenant of Culture is on trend. Her sculptural garments, interwoven webs of labels, paradoxical reusables and irony are both knowing and desirable. She asks questions of fusing disciplines, of art language and self-criticism… all wrapped up in a brand that is a tongue-in-cheek representation of our culture today. Let’s not forget. It’s trendy. — Lindsey Mendick
Lindsey Mendick is interested in how advertising uses proverbs to snag our attention. In her work Though Goldfish Rots from the Head Down we are confronted with a tactile ceramic tile — a solid, lustrous, slab of hurtling colour. It depicts the death of her pet goldfish Craig, who she owned with her ex-boyfriend. Craig is an archetype for a tempestuous relationship; a metaphor for a duelling couple, mirroring the things they hated of each other, especially his laziness. Floating lifeless on top of the water, Craig is immortalised — Mendick won’t let this lie. — Annie Attridge
Leah Carless has a strong relationship with and a deep understanding of the materials she chooses to work with. Each component has been pressed, squeezed and manipulated into structures that are influenced by the body: her body. The subtle forms take on an autobiographical context as partial imprints have been encapsulated into the work, reminding us of the performance process that has taken place. Full to the Brim I and II, 2016, are sprinkled with fragments of Carless’ everyday life. A range of objects such as eggshells, micro-beads and remnants of plaster can be found, embedded into a silicone skin. Although there are no representational figures, the female body is suggested throughout her work through use of beauty products, underwear and fingerprints. In Contour Ebb, 2016, Carless’ movements have been transplanted into the clay. These bodily delicacies are not apparent at first glance but upon closer inspection, grotesque realities begin to emerge. — Olivia Brazier
Mindy Lee takes formal aspects of painting such as edge, surface and process and combines them with autobiographical narratives. Works such as Splatter Platter are a gut reaction to the wedding industry’s use of idealised and beautified images. Mindy used collage as a way to dissect and reassemble this imagery into something blobby, grotesque and visceral. In one of her earlier works, Better Out Than In, large foil dinner plates are heavily painted in a palate resembling mucus or bile, using entrails to engage with the monstrous feminine in a comical way. Mindy talks about the birth of her son and how it had a profound effect on her practice. She addresses the shift of identity that happens after having a child and the transformative effect this physically had on the relationship with her own body. Mindy has since collaborated with her son, using his mark making and clothing to make works.— Leah Carless
Holly Hendry’s sculptures appear soft, marshmallowy, pillowy, doughy and fleshy. However they have a hard reality, being made from smooth marble, hard plaster or plywood. Rigid structures support overwhelming bodily forms or contain cross sections that reveal innards coated in sugary pastel colours. The body is constantly invoked and alluded to, though it is always uncertain at what scale, with works often presenting micro and macrocosms simultaneously. Throughout, the idea of skin and surface is crucial: the membranes which keep objects and layers bound from each other feel perpetually threatened and on the edge of rupture. Her work contains comic elements, cartooned marble bones, spinning plaster teeth and plywood socks, which are undercut by a looming sense of underlying bodily horror. Ideas of the overwhelming blob, female monstrosity and liquidity are all touched upon and themselves touch upon the viewers. — Rebecca Jagoe
Rebecca Jagoe’s works shift and morph in a stickily erogenous manner. Text, performance and sculpture chew each other up and spit themselves out in ways that direct us to the body as a site of desire and disgrace. Rebecca deals with the skins of things. Works uses animal hide, snakeskin, latex and fabric that mutate into works that borrow from the language of high fashion through their form and function, but have a grubbier lining. Excess materials and surfaces fold in on themselves, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior. Materials are consumed, digested, reconstituted and excreted. Taking archaic intellectual notions from texts of the past and dragging them into the present, Jagoe physically scrutinises and analyses what it means to be a body now, dismantling binaries and building a material approach to gender and sexuality. — Holly Hendry
Katharine Fry’s work moves between performance, video, and installation. Fry uses 1950s domestic interiors, creating site-specific interventions by placing her body in compromising positions as she embeds herself in or with the furniture. Within her work her body wavers between subject and object. Her mouth is often a gateway to the otherworldly objects, which are impossibly purged from her mouth. The work exists as videos that are sliced, chopped and framed in ways that tightly hold and discipline the figure further, sometimes accompanied by the sound of Fry singing nostalgic ballads. Fry questions the body’s agency, power and desire, which leave the viewer confronted with their own curiosity. — Alicia Reyes McNamara
PEER FORUM will be meeting regularly throughout 2017–18 with the aim of expanding these ideas while giving feedback on each other’s work. For the next session in January, the group will visit the Victoria and Albert museum to examine their collections. Read more about PEER FORUM.