Faye Claridge, Anton Goldenstein, Adam Goodge, Ines Rebelo
Marc Renshaw, Peter Spiers, Rachel Thorlby, Katy Woods
Curated by Helen Jones
I always tell the truth even when I lie brings together a group of artists who question the resonance of historic artefacts, test scientific theories and explore one's identity through the notion of disguise. Through processes such as manipulation, extraction, fabrication and pretence, familiar objects and ideas are shifted out of context – albeit temporarily, for the artists cannot escape the absurdity of everyday life and the subtle clues and nuances that reveal the answers to our very own existence. Their interventions may momentarily provide a distraction, but in the long-term, they present a fresh view of the world around us; an honesty only established by testing the theory.
The title of the selection is borrowed from Peter Spiers' photograph of a deserted information hut which has the notice 'I always tell the truth even when I lie' pinned on its exterior. Captured by a medium famous for its sincerity, we have to trust Spiers' discovery of the riddle. Staged or not, the conundrum still remains to be solved.
Katy Woods and Rachel Thorlby explore our relationship to place and history through the pairing of 19th artworks and newspaper articles with their contemporary counterparts. Stripped of any contextual information, the hybrid of past and present will be forever unsettling. Acts of empathy are endured by Adam Goodge, Faye Claridge and Anton Goldenstein. Nostalgic, humorous and tender, they each draw out our compassion for celebrity culture, the animal kingdom and quite simply, for each other. From the subjective to the factual, Ines Rebelo and Marc Renshaw apply scientific processes and mathematical equations to everyday, or even hypothetical, situations: if the constellations of the night sky are mapped out in response to the shapes of universal objects and animals, surely such patterns can't be merely accidental?
Peter Spiers' photograph 'I Always Tell The Truth Even When I Lie', presents an epiphany – a moment of clarity experienced on a damp and misty morning. The stillness of the image suggests Spiers was alone at the time of discovering this phrase, or maybe it was his own intervention: a secret confession; a dig at the staff who man the information hut; or the revelation that the pattern of our lives is a process of design over Dasien. By highlighting ordinary objects, events and non-entities that lie at the edge of our everyday perception, Spiers remarks on the unremarkable – an unrecognisable truth.
Faye Claridge yearns to capture an objective record of place, time and experience. The 'here and now' is created through an amalgamation of references to the past and a hint towards the future; an authenticity also undermined by references to theatre and artifice as she constructs the environment in which her sitters are placed. As her subjects adorn masks over their faces, the stage production is complete. In 'Murmurs from the Ark (1 of 6)', a young boy wears a cow mask as he sits amongst luscious foliage. As the sitter takes on a new role, we offer our empathy and through this process, we each gain a greater sense of self-awareness – not only for ourselves, but for each other.
The re-working of late 18th and early 19th century portraits and landscape paintings is only one half of the quandary set by Thorlby. Her choice of source material is not only used to divert the course of history but to explore the authenticity of the painted image and the shift in presenting the three dimensional onto a flat surface. 'I see landscape paintings as objects', she states. 'In Paradise Found' (2006), Thorlby encapsulates an idyllic, pastoral landscape in the interior of a cardboard box. Lost and now found, the painting-cum-sculpture is only truly discovered once the viewer crosses the threshold of the picture plane and enters the romantic sublime.
Do It Yourself (night sky experience), 2007
Using The Guardian's free fold out wall chart of the night sky, Rebelo followed the constellation map one evening only to superimpose her own observations. Studies of dark clouds drawn directly on top of the original poster have caused the starlight to fade and occasionally disappear. The resulting patterns suddenly propose a new universe and the remaining letters, a new language. This blueprint of a subjective experience, perhaps never to be experienced again, disrupts the information on the 'fact sheet' and even millennia of astrological study. Like Rebelo, what if the great astrologists of the past had also viewed the night sky under a sea of clouds?
Anton Goldentstein's 'The truth about carrots (the rabbit)' features a very 'cool' looking (stuffed) white rabbit wearing a pair of shades, sitting on a wooden plank; a rabbit who has possibly just been plucked off a television commercial rather than out of a magician's hat. Animals often play the main characters in Goldenstein's paintings and sculptures, and apes, squirrels, birds and rabbits all adopt human characteristics by dressing up, painting self-portraits and defining key moments in history (e.g. 'Banana Republic', 2007) . As Goldenstein disrupts the course of anthropology, he proposes what could have been. 'All animals are equal but are some are more equal than others', Orwell famously commented and Goldenstein's ever evolving kingdom can only confirm these words. [George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945]
Adam Goodge has previously carried out a number of performances in Swansea town centre where he has masqueraded as icons such as Cliff Richard and Adam Ant. He has since created a number of 'How to be like' guides so ordinary people can also take on the persona of celebrities as they go about their daily lives. We can now all shop, catch the bus or put the rubbish out under the guise of Jason Donavan, Marlon Brando or even Liam Gallagher. In a society where fame and fortune proposes to be the answer to everything, Goodge's melancholic yet humorous performances reveal the fickle nature of celebrity culture – and hint towards the truth that lies behind the mask.
'Bayerns', 'Athletico', 'Tranquilayers', 'Delta' and 'Olby' may all sound like international sporting teams but they are no more than a fictional super league created by Marc Renshaw. At the age of six, Renshaw began to invent his own theoretical football teams following an interest in league tables and statistics. Listening to these scores on the radio and scribbling them down with biro as quickly as possible, led to the creation of autonomous lists and sketches – and a process which has continued well into his adult life. The charts, tables and drawings could be substituted for Renshaw's diary; an archive of hopes, fears and ever growing ambitions based on the rules of 'the beautiful game'.
I should like to repeat some of the strange tales told me, but have already, I am afraid, put a dangerous strain on your patience, 2006
Katy Woods' bookwork 'I should like to repeat some of the strange tales told to me...', features a collection of newspaper articles and reports that includes stories of animals from the 19th century to the present day. Stripped of any contextual information, the articles sit side-by-side condensing gulfs of time, social attitudes and political welfare into a matter of pages. The title suggests tales of the bizarre and the ridiculous, and knowing our patience will be tested, an air of suspicion immediately clouds their authenticity. It is in the context of fables and fairytales that animals usually take the leading role, rather than in news stories – in fictitious worlds where animals walk, talk and establish the morals we choose to abide by.
Helen Jones is Exhibitions Curator at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Recent curatorial projects include: Tiny Details, Grotesque Proportions, a solo exhibition by Elizabeth Rowe, The New Art Gallery Walsall (2008); Shifting Ground, Angel Row Gallery (2007) and When Men and Mountains Meet, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia (2006). Formally Exhibitions Officer at Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, Helen established 'Accelerator', a programme of professional development opportunities for artists based in the East Midlands and continues to support the production of new work and emerging practices though the Artists' Projects programme at The New Art Gallery Walsall.
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