Open Frequency 2008: Lloyd Durling selected by Richard Higlett

Open Frequency 2008: Lloyd Durling selected by Richard Higlett Lloyd Durling, Threads, 2008. Biro, paper. 43cm x 61cm

Richard Higlett selects the work of Lloyd Durling

When viewing Lloyd Durling's intricate art works I think about whether life is the result of things simply happening, or where simple things happen. By this I mean the way the world is a complex relationship between relatively simple actions that by a chain of associations develop into incredibly complex organisms and systems of existence.

Lloyd Durling works exclusively with ballpoint pen, to fashion from a commonplace device, images that are fantastical, unnerving and claustrophobic, while they are paradoxically delicate and physically rigorous in their technique. In 'Corpse Flower' (2006) (part of the series 'Morphology of the Species' (2006-2007), the voids in which the botanical imagery inhabit are made up of a myriad of tiny gentle strokes that form a black/ dark blue field that is full of repetitive activity. Like the void of cosmological space, it is not solid, although it is possible to perceive that it is due to our perception of it being incredibly dense. Viewing is akin to the sense of being in pitch darkness through the absence of light. Initially total, we soon try to interpret shapes that merge and twist before us, and find something with which we can relate to and locate ourselves. This deceptive plain of activity is the world in which more representational elements are located. In the series 'Morphology of the Species' we are presented with plant forms with associations that are mystic, tainted with witchcraft and folklore.

Durling's work is full of details that lay waiting for the observer to look further into the imagery before them, but the more we look the less we may understand this familiar yet strange world. The piece 'Morphology of the Species' (2007) does not depict nature from a strictly Linnaeusian or Darwinian view based on empirical knowledge.1 Every image has a darker meaning, heightened by it's position of being dislocated from other visual points of reference. These studies shift between ideas around good and evil.

In other works, Durling's compositional use of the circle is akin to a lens: a device for focusing only on the shapes and forms that inhabit the interior. However when we look into one of these circles we are not afforded any simple visual answers to a possible narrative between the patterns and forms. The settings are as familiar as they are curious. When something familiar such as a house appears we are thrown into a quiet confusion as we search for possible meaning. Placing ourselves into these scenes we start to ponder how we would spend our time in this world, but behind the angelic facade is the reality of how we could possibly exist with practically nothing and nothing practical- we realise then they are dreams. Echoing the way they are made, the dreams within and for themselves are unsustainable beyond Durling's predetermined limitations of technique, within the circle is the inescapable idyllic. The circle becomes a rigid portal to a place more illusionary than imaginary.

In the past, Durling has avoided framing works. Their surfaces are very flat but highly detailed. This encourages the action of 'getting up close'. Durling's earlier 'black' works could lead the viewer to see the paper as something sculptural, as the envisaged volume of ink used in the process implies a weight in addition to the weight of paper alone. Later works have forms on a white background, in either the image is floating unless it goes over the edge of the page. Then we sense it has come from somewhere else and we see a section of something, the rest of which we can only imagine.

Durling's recent pieces such as 'Handmaid' (2008) and 'Midnight' (2008) first appear as geological features in harmony, rocks and waterfalls are held together with elements of decoration. Here the inflexible ballpoint pen recreates waves of fluidity, with textures appearing to shimmer. The ink, designed to dry instantly, is rendered as if it is still fluid. When viewing these new works, I recall Roy Lichtenstein's 'Brush Stroke' paintings of the mid 1960's, but where the comic book aesthetic borrows from graphic design and advertising culture, Durling's use of the utilitarian ballpoint looks at the artist as individual, compulsive, creatively exclusive and autonomous.

Lloyd Durling's work is wonderfully paradoxical, flights of fancy that manifest out of the mundane. They are representations that appear simultaneously closed and open to meaning. Simple actions become grand gestures, animated and enchanted forms all from the point of the pen.

Richard Higlett, December 2008


1 Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the formal system of naming species.

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Artist's biography

Lloyd Durling (b. Solihull, 1979) currently lives and works in both Berlin and London. He is gaining a strong reputation in the UK for his unique highly-detailed ballpoint pen and biro works on paper. Durling has had a strong presence at recent Art Fairs, including Pulse in New York this year and Scope in Miami, Basel and New York in 2007. Selected exhibitions in 1998 include: Rotate; Contemporary Art Society (London); If You Build it, They Will Come, G39 (Cardiff); The Golden Record, Collective Gallery (Edinburgh), and prior to this in 2007: Revolver, Second Exposure (Cornwall); Things We Lost In The Fire, City Gallery (Leicester); Republic, L'EST Project Space (London). His work is held in the collection of Fidelity PLC (London) and the private collection of Gillian Anderson. In January 2009 he will be exhibiting at Pippy Houldsworth (London) alongside Yuken Teruya and Masakatsu Kondo.

About Richard Higlett

Richard Higlett is an artist/curator working across a range of media. Based in Cardiff and the West Midlands, he is a co-founder of Mermaid and Monster, an artist-led agency representing emerging and established contemporary artists at International Art Fairs. Mermaid and Monster also exists to curate exhibitions of emerging artist and commission new projects. He is also a co-founder Artists Resource Cardiff (arc) an artist-led networking initiative for the capital whose website hub went live in January 2008.

As an artist he is a previous recipient of a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council, he has exhibited internationally as himself and as the imaginary outsider artist Wally French. His work involves the creation of various acts of folly and creating objects that are, in his words non-visual in that they do not demand to be observed and sometimes can remain unobserved by the viewer. He is currently writing a book of fictional first pages in collaboration with the writer Leona Jones.

He has worked as a project manager for Cardiff Council, working on the 2005 Cultural Program, involved in initiating the first Cardiff Contemporary Visual Art Month and was the education co-ordinator for the first Artes Mundi Prize in 2004. He is also an experienced lecturer who was recently invited by Axis to be a graduate advisor for the 2007 MA show at UWIC, Cardiff.

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.