(selected by Karen MacKinnon)
In His Image, 2007
'Like a weird sort of yin and yang Bermingham and Robinson seem to balance out each other's practice and output so that we are presented with two sides of every story. They unrelentingly present us with an unedited dialogue, and this is where their work becomes interesting. Through it we listen in on the chats of two friends, eavesdrop on their decisions, their plans, and their arguments through what we see. The relationship between the two is clearly the most important aspect of this practice. Collaboration always throws up as many questions as couples do to the single onlooker.' (G39)
Cardiff-based artists Robert Bermingham and Richard Robinson have worked collaboratively over the past three years, forging a dynamic artistic partnership that has a growing reputation within the contemporary art scene in Wales and beyond. Whilst Rich began his art practice as a sculptor, Rob was a printmaker and they now work together across a variety of media - drawing, painting, sewing, sculpture and installation. Past projects have been sited both in and outside of the gallery, including billboard posters and in-house gatherings. The works reference boyhood, advertising, comic books, adolescence, computer games and corporate culture, born out of the need to reconcile the promise of a sun-filled youth with the stark reality of growing up. It questions the belief that as the world becomes more modern so it will become more reasonable and enlightened - exposing the misapprehension that a truly modern world will have rational, forward-looking and humane values. As a pair they are full of bluster and bravado but the resulting work is an investigation into the world around them, coloured by the hope that everything will be alright but with the knowledge that it might not be.
Bermingham and Robinson have a keen eye for drawing and making things; finely crafted collages of advertisements, cross-stitch and references to art history sit alongside seemingly random sketches, doodles, objects and notes to each other; these notes refer to a continuous conversation between the two artists, from the role of the artist in contemporary society to the nature of masculinity in our youth obsessed culture. Curator Karen MacKinnon writes 'Their works are playful and humorous in their boys-own way but there is an ensuing sense of loss, loss of direction which seems to come from not knowing one's place in the world, an unsettling feeling that things were not meant to turn out like this. There is a harking back to childhood for answers, for clarity, a time when things were simpler, easier to grasp. The resultant works have a sense of being caught between the boy and the adult male, lost somewhere just before adolescence in computer games and car manuals but also evoking perhaps a sense of being lost in the complex world of multinational corporate culture, Zoo magazine and the X Box.'1
Bull and Bear
Bull and Bear, the phrase commonly used to describe the stock market in rise or decline, was the title of Bermingham and Robinson's solo show at G39, Cardiff in 2006. Corresponding with each animal's method of attack, investors can be described as having bullish or bearish sentiments, and market trends are witnessed when bulls (buyers) out number bears (sellers) or vice-versa. Bermingham and Robinson could not be further from the stock market yet the term 'bull and bear' summarises their approach: a practice based on the unedited dialogue of two artists arriving from two different perspectives.
At G39, a meticulously scaled-up Haynes car manual pile-up entitled 'You, Me, Everybody' lay on a table top; 'Chair in Motion: 1-63' - a depiction of an act of violence or disruption expanded over 63 drawings - surrounded the viewer on the first floor: 'the stop-frame images reduced the impact of a school chair thrown across the room; the subject matter is redolent of teenage angst but its execution impassive.' The final work, 'The Future Will Be Little Different From The Past' was the artists' series of five cross-stitch panels referencing the arcade games of their youth, depicting a game of destruction in process. Here the game is extracted from its martial origins and transformed into a laborious sampler: 'the quick-fire, kill-or-be-killed world is now a stitch-dropping, needle-threading toil.'2
Richard Robinson studied HND Sculpture at Carmarthen College of Art from 1994-6 and Robert Bermingham completed a PGCE at the University of Wales, Cardiff in 2002 following a degree in Fine Art from Grays School of Art, Aberdeen in 1996. They live and work in Cardiff.
Some Vacant Accommodation, SVA, Stroud
Jerwood Drawing Prize, London and tour
Bull and Bear (solo show), G39, Cardiff
The Wave, Assembly, Chapter, Cardiff
The House (solo show), 5 Llandaff, Cardiff
Del Vito, Jacobs Market, Cardiff
Touching the Pink, Academy Arts, London
Dirty Harry, Mid-Glamorgan University
Co-Habitation, tactile BOSCH, Cardiff
1. Karen MacKinnon, Open Frequency nomination text, 2007.
2. G39, Cardiff, Bull and Bear press release, 2006.
Ruth Beale, Review, Bull and Bear, 2006
Gordon Dalton, Waiting for Superman, 2006