Open Frequency 2008: Erica Eyres selected by Jenny Brownrigg

Open Frequency 2008: Erica Eyres selected by Jenny Brownrigg Erica Eyres, Destiny Green (video still), 2006. Digital video, mini DV. 7 mins 29 secs. Image courtesy ROKEBY, London

Jenny Brownrigg selects the work of Erica Eyres

Erica Eyres is a Canadian artist, living and working in Glasgow. Inspired by society's modern-day desires hot-housed to an extreme by American trash TV, her uncompromising drawings and fictional documentary-style video works continue to create a growing cast of characters reacting to the vicissitudes of life.

The artist herself, with the aid of make-up, wigs, costume and props, plays each character in her video melodramas. In 'Baby Marleena' (2006), Eyres is the exploitative mother, the mermaid daughter and the troubled teenage boy whose parents pay for him to visit Baby Marleena at home in her bath tub in order to be 'cured'. The dysfunctional family unit is further explored in 'Jenny Johnson' (2006), where a fawning, disadvantaged daughter who has so obviously escaped the tyranny of dental braces, is driven to kill popular pupil Jenny Johnson for a star-shaped earring as her domineering mother has denied her the same ear piercing rite of passage. The need for belonging and fitting in is a feature in Eyres' works, taken to the extreme in 'Without Arms' (2004). The story is recounted through individual interviews with four women who form their own sorority during college by collectively deciding to cut off their right arms. Moments after, one member decided to have her arm surgically sewn back on. As a result, the group excludes her. In the age of cosmetic surgery, 'Destiny Green' (2006) takes the need to erase unwanted features to black limits with a child beauty pageant queen choosing to have her whole face surgically removed in the ultimate rebellion against this industry.

Ideas of attractiveness, sexuality and beauty are further turned on their head in Eyres' drawings of teenage girls and women. The co-ordinates of the perfect symmetry of the face and body are morphed in these portraits. Eyes are too small and squint, small breasts sag, large trout pouts droop. A procession of older women with rich names evocative of past Hollywood beauties such as Lana and Rita pose for an unseen presence – Shirley with her slumped shoulders and coquettish strapless baby doll top smiles demurely stage left. Eyres' drawings may be provocative in their focus on elements of the grotesque but they are never cruel. All meticulously rendered in ballpoint pen the details of the hair for example, such as the soft wave of a 70s flick or the blunt cut of a sculptural fringe, is sensitively and lovingly created on the page. The women all have an air of self-possession and confidence too. Their eyes, almost sticky with the viscous quality of the pen's ink often directly meet the gaze of the viewer or of themselves in the mirror.

Eyres' intense 'reality' studies tread an uncomfortable line between humour, reality, provocation and pathos for the viewer.

Jenny Brownrigg, February 2008 

Artist's biography

Erica Eyres (b.1980, Winnipeg) studied Sculpture at University of Manitoba (1998-2002) then went on to do an MFA at Glasgow School of Art (2002-2004). Forthcoming exhibitions include a solo show at Rokeby, London in April 2008 and a group drawing exhibition at Jack Hanley, San Francisco.

Solo exhibitions include Fette's Gallery, Los Angeles (2007); Kunsthaus Erfurt, Erfurt (2007); I Love You But I Hate You, CCA, Glasgow (2006); Forever and Ever and Ever and Ever and Ever, G+ Galleries, Toronto (2006); It's For the Best, Dwarf Gallery, Reykjavik (2005); 'neath the green green grass of home, Mary Mary, Glasgow (2005).

Group exhibitions include: Group sculpture exhibition, 798 Space, Beijing (2007); Group exhibition, Akureyri Art Museum, Akureyri, Iceland (2007); I Gave YouLife(2007) Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee; Graphology, Triple Base, San Francisco (2007); Bizarre Love Triangle, Fette's Gallery, Los Angeles (2007); Punch 3, G+ Galleries, Toronto (2006); Fragmentation of the Self, Rush Arts Gallery, New York (2006); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Lot, Bristol; Barbican, London (2005).

Eyres lives and works in Glasgow and is represented by Rokeby, London.

About Jenny Brownrigg

Jenny Brownrigg is University of Dundee Exhibitions Department Curator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (2002-). She graduated with BA (hons) Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art (1990-4) and MFA at DJCAD (1996). Previous posts have included; Gallery Co-ordinator at Changing Room Gallery, Stirling (1998-9), and Project Officer at Grizedale Arts, Cumbria (2000-2).

As an artist Jenny undertook several residencies including the Scottish Arts Council Pier Arts Centre Fellowship, Orkney (1998). She is also the author of two publications; 'Nature Centre', the result of a writer's residency with Grizedale Arts, and 'Romantic Vanguard', a screenplay which was developed during her artist residency with Royston Road Project in Blackhill, Glasgow (2002). She writes articles for magazines including Untitled and The Map. She was co-curator of The Young Artists' Biennial Absent Without Leave (AWOL) , 2nd Edition, Bucharest, Romania, Oct 14 - Nov 16 2006. 

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.