Statement of intent
My interests for the past two years plus have led me towards investigative enquiries of a very human nature. What began as a curious peek into how images are embedded into our memories, then triggered by any number of stimuli, such as a smell or sound, has opened up a fascination of a more sociological theme. This theme being the seaside, specifically the British seaside, resort and its visitors.
All my explorations thus far have been steeped in voyeurism and punctuated with a psychoanalytical flavour. I have endeavoured to unpick the why? and how? behind behavioural patterns. The traditions and repetitions within the everyday habits of the holidaying public had been my initial line of enquiry. I have endeavoured to understand the reasoning behind such curious behaviour as burying Dad in the sand, or even why sand castles and donkeys are such iconic images when we think of the seaside.Further exploring the behaviour of the holidaying public and their loss of inhibition whilst on holiday. An understanding of the product of meaning at the seaside is imperative, as this popular culture has become a phenomenon, over the course of the seaside’s history.
Whereas I initially held the belief that, whilst on holiday, the seaside visitor has become totally accepting of the facade, fantasy, and space that has been created and sold them as the ideal resort. I have since discovered, this ideology is born out of co-operation as the resort and the tourists have an almost symbiotic relationship. Without which the wheels of production and consumerism may well cease to turn.
British holiday resort; it is not as clean a division as I once believed. It may not be as simple a narrative as the exploiter and exploited, as Jean Baurillard (27 July 1929 – 6 March 2007) French sociologist, philosopher, and cultural theorist explains. “Consumerism is the common denominator of contemporary Western society. What defines our society is the endless exchange and consumption of objects-signs.” he goes on to say that through saturation of representations within contemporary culture, reality, falsity and the imagined have become indistinguishable”.( Emerling 2005 pg;88)
Leaving me with the belief that acceptance of this seaside experience may well be less complicated than I originally thought. If this place (space) is a product brought about by a system that has long since superseded itself, then what exists within this environment now is in fact a simulation. Looking at Martin Parr (born 24 May 1952) (British, photojournalist,) and his scathing depictions of the holidaying public, sat amidst what appears to be scenes of urban decay. Seemingly quite oblivious to this fact. Accepting, this representation of the seaside. This is a grim and sad realisation, to me as an outsider. However it is undeniable that Parr’s photographs emit humour. A very British sense of humour where we relish the darker parts of our personalities. We have only to look at television programmes such as “the league of gentlemen” to understand this.
It is also true that acceptance may not be a debatable subject if in fact there exists no counter argument. By this I mean nothing with which to make a comparison. All individuals have what they consider to be the norm. The everyday as they know it. Our experiences are through repetition, tradition, and habit. Ergo the seaside is expected to look, feel, smell a certain way as this is how it has always been to the individual. When one has never known it to be any different, they may not deem to question this.
I turn then to the question of the North South divide, it is true that the more southerly seaside resort’s bare only a passing resemblance to their Northern counterparts?. This division has its roots buried deep in History. The industrialisation of the Northern half of the country with its factories, mills and requisite work forces, a very working class environment was created. Poor living conditions and inner city life, was relieved by the annual exodus to the coast. The requirements for the masses were catered for by way of resorts such as Morecambe, Blackpool, and Scarborough. Whereas looking to the south coast for example, Cornwall,with its fishing ports, rolling hills and rural situation, little industry other than mining of tin and clay grew. Attracting the likes of poets, writers, and artists, lured by the beauty of the landscape and purity of light.
This division is still evident, and is reflected not only as a cultural divide but one of monetary wealth. Take the humble but iconic beach hut for example. A beach hut in Sand banks Dorset went on sale for £ 80,000 with no running water, or electricity. The new owner was said to have quoted “yes but it does have stunning views” Those people who have lived, or holidayed either abroad or on the south coast may well consider the larger northern resorts as utterly repugnant. This echo’s my previous theory that conditioning can play a part in acceptability.
I have been working with paper clay to build beach huts. I feel the hut is a strong and iconic structure, symbolic of the seaside. The meaning behind this structure has many implications; such is the language of semiotics. Taking inspiration from Grayson Perry and his most recent exhibition “The tomb of the unknown craftsman” Perry uses glaze like paint and marks the surface of his ceramics with many images and quotations.
I have also been looking at artists Ofra Lapids “Broken House’s”.
The point of departure for my photographic works is in images found on the Internet. I browse around the virtual space in search of raw material. The main subjects of my research are domestic environments and various architectural structures, as well as routine cityscapes. The images at which I point are those of the unusual, bizarre, fantastic, catastrophic, tragic, poetic, funny, surreal; ones which were free to download. The use of web-based images gives me the freedom to appropriate both image and context, namely the story behind it, the subject matter. I enjoy manipulating the original photograph: erase; cut, copy and paste; print; create crafty models; build something broken; create an illusion; change the meaning; emphasize something from the past (of no obvious relevance); photograph a photograph; enlarge something that is very small; meet new people; discover remote parts of the world; be in many places at once; humanize the computer; settle conflicts. Art for me is a good way to resolve the relentless conflicts existing in everyday life. It is a way to communicate, respond, and negotiate every thought, every action, and every lasting desire (Lapid 2012).
I have been exploring this technique to convey my feelings as regard the division of the North and South, hoping to push the theory further and by doing so echo my deep-seated principles of what is and is not acceptable as art? And ultimately how this is reflected in the price tag.
My aims have been to examine this theory and present it metaphorically, by this I mean using the uncanny or ironic. Satire is a wonderful tool with which to demonstrate unsettling or serious issues. By implementing humour I have strived to invite the viewer to take a closer look at the bigger issue. My aim has been to connect and engage as quickly as possible. By using tactics that are familiar I wished to stimulate an appetite within the viewer creating a connection through recognition between the viewer and the viewed, then deliver the punch line.
Working in both a two and three-dimensional process I have married the processes together. What at first may appear to be a pleasant presentation may on closer inspection be quite the opposite. In doing this I feel it echoes the contrasting representation of the seaside and the resort. Where the sublime, unblemished, natural beauty of the beach becomes bastardised through interference, redesign and consumerism. The very thing that the resort represents is now almost surplus to requirement.
My research has taken me on a visit to Blackpool (once called the king of resorts, during the inter wars period) whilst visiting I saw the exhibition a History mass photography at the Grundy gallery. Here I was able to view several decades of holiday makers, captured in a moment, frozen for posterity. The fashions changing throughout the decades and so to the once brilliant Hotels and cafes. Now in a sad state of disrepair, wearing layers of peeling bill boards and advertisements like sunburnt ,cracking skin.
I have looked at artist’s who use humour within their art. I believe for me at least it is an essential part of my character and therefore bleeds into the work I produce. David Shrigley a younger artist in his forties, who uses humor in his art, to such an extent that it has made me laugh audibly when looking at it. He also writes short quirky stories with the same odd content, that seem to titter on the edge of sanity, based on the bizarre content. Like the poet Ivor cutler (who I admire and listen to often).
Shrigley finds humour in flat depictions of the inconsequential, the unavailing and the bizarre – although he is far fonder of violent or otherwise disquieting subject matter. Shrigley’s work has two of the characteristics often encountered in outsider art. (Dave Eggers accessed Feb. 24th 2012)
I have never been particularly moved by naive art, I would go as far as to say, I find its naivety almost too vague and hard to connect with…. The work by David Shrigley however, is quick-witted and very snappy. It may not make every one laugh, but that’s part of its beauty. Those who don’t always understand Art are not stupid; they just haven’t found art that speaks their language. I believe that Shrigley speaks in my language. If I can make half the people laugh half of the time, will make the other half laugh some other time.
I have worked through different mediums and techniques and gradually began to hone my craft in a more pointed direction. Through inspiration from artist’s such as Cindy Sherman, Dexter Dalgood, Banksy, Martin Parr, Iain mc.kell, and Chuck Close. .Investigative enquiries of identity have grown into a broader investigation of tradition. From studying the individual with their idiosyncrasies to the behaviour of the people as a collective. .Namely British people on holidays.
I have been painting a large scene on canvas, a depiction of the seaside, with Blackpool in mind, Paying attention to the depth of perception, I want the foreground to have a loose quality, a fat fleshy woman. The background more illustrative.Somewhere within this work I will incorporate as much seaside souvenirs and tat as I can possibly include. This is a metaphor for the changed face of the seaside.I have been looking at Ged Quin, Ed and Nancy Klienholtz, and Boo Ritson. All of whom use hyper reality and the uncanny together.
Presentation Skills: Paint ceramic, sculpture, found objects. All of which I have explored and also melded together, rather like the flotsam and jetsam we see on our tide lines. All these items are unrelated and have become displaced, however as we have come to expect this level of detritus and fowling on our shores, it seems more expected than not. Ergo all manner of items can, and have, been used to convey an unpleasant but very real feel of the British seaside. I have used paint in a much more expressive manner and through experimentation I hope I have managed to convey the sensation of blubbery white skin on its annual outing to the often un-sunny beach. With my ceramic exploration, I have taken the glaze process back to an almost primitive, technique, rather like mark making, using the underglaze painterly on the surface of my beach huts I have taken these iconic sheds and represented their surfaces as metaphorical statements.When I first began making the huts they were just supposed to be representations of the seaside, through an iconic structure. Now, however, I believe they have a better place in the realm of the souvenir.
Cited. Theory for art History Jae Emerling. Routedge 2005