CONTEXT

I have always tried to forge a unique vision regarding my art and art making. As I have a large range of intellectual pursuits I am hoping my arc has shed light on some of my (often random and chaotic) thinking for the body of work I produced during unit one. The influence I draw from the art world comes mainly from the art historical canon and as I am fascinated in ideas and thinking, it is often other artists attitudes and singular approaches that interests me.

THE ARTIST AS PROVOCATEUR

One of the roles I wanted to explore during unit one was the artist as a provocateur. Often this is a deliberate tactic meant to question the viewers beliefs and presuppositions or to question the boundaries of taste and decency. Gilbert and George have inspired the vision and tone of certain areas of my practise. I have drawn heavily upon their concept of ‘Living Sculptures,’ where, they themselves become the artwork. Two of their pieces are a direct influence upon my work ‘Stanley Black is a Bastard’.  Although they have an arresting visual style my main interest lies in how their work challenge middle class sensibilities by producing shocking and often confrontational works. Their first collaboration in 1969 was a photographic self portrait with each artist sitting either side of a double page spread. Smiling with letters cut from paper are attached to their suits and displayed like a statement. ‘George the Cunt’ and ‘Gilbert the Shit’. I was interested in the self-deprecating but ultimately playful nature of the work. However, the biggest influence on 'Stanley Black is a Bastard' is the 1978 work ‘Paki’.

THE ARTIST AS APPROPRIATOR

Appropriation features heavily within my practise. As an object of appropriation has its own cultural baggage and semiotic meanings, my intention is to either borrow the meaning (which I hope adds further weight to the work) or to comment upon the cultural significance of an object. With several of my works I have directly used imagery from the artistic canon. Gavin Turk is another artist who themes and concerns parallel my own. Turk also draws heavily upon art history and uses appropriation, although his aim is to question notions such as authenticity and originality. My aim in using such works is to enter myself in to a dialogue with art history and ground myself within the art historical canon. Turk is also interested in the role of the artist, early on in his career he toyed with the idea of changing his name but settled on just using his own. By constructing an artistic alter ego but calling him Gavin Turk he raises similar question of what is real and what is (un)real that I also  try to explore within my own work. The use of masks and dressing up are also deployed to add further levels of meaning like in his 1993 work ‘Pop’ which is described as “a waxwork figure of the artist as Sid Vicious in the pose of Andy Warhol's Elvis Presley, which imagined the be-quiffed star as a gunslinging cowboy - the original king of Pop as celebrated by the original "king" of Pop Art.”

THE ARTIST AS TRICKSTER

Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo (1996)

I am interested in the idea of the artist as a trickster. As I attempt to inject humour into aspects of my work there are several artists whose playful nature I try to emulate. The Italians seem to be particularly good at producing artists of this ilk. Piero Manzoni work can be seen an investigation of art as object and a critique of the commercialisation and mass production of his age. His 1961 piece 'Merda d'Artista'  where he (apparently) canned his own shit and sold each 30 gram tin at the price of gold, as it was at the time. This then becomes a comment on art production and the art object as commodity. I tried to raise similar questions with my work '(A)rt.(I)n.(D)ecline.(S)till.' Maurizio Cattelan is an art world prankster who is famous for his art stunts and often his works poke fun and critique the art market. His work can be seen as playful teasing on the commodification of art works often highlighting the absurdity of the art market and offering a counter to the pretentiousness and seriousness that is sometimes apparent within the art world. This attitude fed into my works like the 'WOT R U / a Normie Sandwich?' mirror piece which was influenced by a Gordon Ramsey meme and if the viewer has to ask themselves “what is a normie,” then they are one. Or my 'Grow a Pair’ which was meant to be a playful (but also serious) comment within my arc(hive) in regards to the controversial works that would follow it.

THE ARTIST AS FAKER 

As the whole of my conduct during unit one was intended to be a cunning ruse to introduce Stanley Black into the art world. There are several contemporary artists also play around with the theme of what is real and what is (un)real. James Shovlin has produced work that explores the tension between truth and fiction. In 2004 he based an exhibition around a series of drawings from a missing Jewish schoolgirl which were supported by newspaper cuttings and diary entries. It was revealed half way through the exhibition that the entire body of work was faked and the girl never existed. In 2006 Shovlin created another exhibition based on the memorabilia of a non-existent German glam rock band called Lustfaust again supported with faked documentation but this time with a network of websites that Shovlin had created. Amalia Ulman is an artist who in 2014 started a four month performance piece using an instrgram account. She created a character and then posted fabricated photos to chart and produce a story arc for the character. Using stereotypes found within the medium a 'cute girl', then a 'sugar babe' and finally a 'life goddess'. Any followers she gathered during this period where unaware that is was art project questioning authencity in the digital age and the role of social media in shaping our perceptions and beliefs.

THE ARTIST AS AESTHETICIST

The aesthetic style I attempted for my sculptural work is heavily influenced by the 1967 ‘Poor Art’ movement. My interest lies not only in their use of everyday materials but in the political implication of the works. The movement can seen as reaction against American Pop Art, which they viewed as a uncritical celebration of the mass-consumption and commercialism in society. Parallels of style can be made with the 90’s Y.B.A. movement, “with a way of working that went beyond modernism in terms of its inherent in the personal and subjective, its rejection of coherent style and its promotion of artistic freedom”  (Minnucci, R, 2017, Poor Art/Arte Povera Italian Influences British Responses, Estorik).

 Sarah Lucas, Bunny gets snookered (1997)

THE ARTIST AS A READER

A significant influence on my thinking during unit one was the book '33 Artists in 3 Acts'. The sociologist and anthropologist Sarah Thronton interviewed a number of artists who exhibit on the international art scene. The main thrust of her enquiry was to pose to them, the question "What is an artist?" As this was an area of investigation within my own research I found the interviews illuminating. The conclusion I interpreted from the text was that the role of the artist is not just as a maker of artworks, as a builder of artefacts. Nor is an artist just a producer of signs and signifiers, creating new and original meaning but the role of the artist is also in the manifestation of an artistic persona. And to draw upon Walter Benjamin, it is this 'aura' of persona that gives an artwork its cultural value or if you are viewing it from an art market perspective - its value as a commodity.