is that a bruise or a tattoo?
11th May 2018 — 9th June 2018
ALMA ZEVI Venice
Opening: 10 May, 6 - 8 PM
ALMA ZEVI is delighted to announce gobscure’s first exhibition in Italy, entitled is that a bruise or a tattoo?. Going by the artist name ‘gobscure’, the self-taught artist living in Newcastle (U.K.) is also a writer, performer and activist. For his exhibition in Venice he is presenting an audio piece that was commissioned by the gallery, a new photographic series, a poem, and sculpture.
As an artist with mental health issues, gobscure addresses these issues in a number of ways; including, in his own words ‘reclaiming the languages of lunacy’. This particular exhibition revolves around the themes of self-portraiture and identity. Specifically, personal histories feed into imagery that creates a blurring between the real and irreal. The exhibition title is borrowed from one of the artist’s poems of the same name. The poem itself forms part of the exhibition, and its richly descriptive narrative adds an intensely autobiographical insight to the show. This is in sharp contrast with the spare aesthetic of many of the other works on view.
The main body of work in the exhibition is the photographic series, entitled ...ov glass & were aching to... (2018). This uses portraiture and self-portraiture as its starting point – where the artist takes a photo of his reflected hand and tattooed arm in the glass shop-front. The display is a male mannequin wearing a three-piece suit and gaudy orange pocket square. gobscure challenges the idea of an inner and outer self, presenting a mannequin that seems more real and solid than the fleeting and weightless manifestation of the artist. The images are truly strange and transient things, evoking a myriad of immediate reactions: kitsch, sad, hopeful. There is also an air of theatre as the glass seems to act as a stage on which people going about their daily errands are faithfully reflected.
In addition, the gallery has commissioned gobscure to make a new audio piece, entitled we have taken scissors to a few folks ties (2018). The presence of the artist’s voice as he speaks and sings adds an important layer of understanding to the exhibition. The audio piece brings together significant references to the photograph series, as well as his stance on political and social issues (such as losing our ‘human-ness’ through surveillance and technology), and also the fracturing of Europe. This wide-ranging and open-ended narrative is overlaid with ‘background noise’ which evokes the atmosphere of the street life that can be observed in the photograph series. A seminal work by gobscure that is included in the exhibition is his nutcase (2017). Subverting the expression ‘nutcase’ as someone who is mad, the artist makes a literal nutcase. This nutcase is inscribed with a short poem and contains several nuts, some broken and, in the artist’s words, ‘an empty space left by the nut that got away’. While using cheap materials, the sculpture conveys a precious quality, like a treasure box. It is also a remarkably poetic and witty manifestation of the artist, as he explores his identity as dictated by how he might be perceived by the outside world.
gobscure explains that he aims to: ‘challenge ownership of narratives, psychiatry - privileged storytelling not science-based on history as psychiatric survivor’. This is done with subtlety, humour and pathos. The work is rigorously edited and researched, with an artistic process that requires a high level of discipline. The result is a body of work that probably asks more questions than it answers, is by turns shrewdly critical, and by turns reverential of the fragile beauty in the world.
gobscure (b. 1967, U.K.) is an artist, as well as writer, performer, activist. He has made over 100 short films that have been shown worldwide, including moths & rust currently screening at Mission Gallery (Swansea, U.K.) (thanks to dac). In 2016 he was a finalist in 100 Years of Dada at the ICA, London. In 2017 he had solo shows at Fokidos (Athens, Greece) and at The Art House (Wakefield, U.K.), where he showed work that was developed in collaboration with The Mental Health Museum of the same city. In recent years, his performances and audio pieces have been included in residencies with Stanley Picker Gallery (Kingston Upon Thames, U.K.); and broadcasts such as Radiophrenia (Glasgow, U.K.), Borealis (Bergen, Norway), Meeting Place (Perth, Australia); and B#Side (Casarsa della Delizia, Italy); and in international festivals like Helicotrema (Venice, Italy). Recent publications include volumes of poetry such as is that a bruise or a tattoo?, published by Shearsman Press in 2013.