Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
A gallery in a small isolated community tucked away in the cliffs of North Devon, England has been host to some bizarre events. A huge light box of a portrait of the self-declared tranvestite potter and winner of the Turner Prize Grayson Perry has been shining a light from the gallery window during lockdown.
Gallery owner and expert in mid 20th century fine art pottery Tim Williams has held Grayson Perry in the highest esteem and saw the opportunity to show the lightbox by artist Richard Ansett as tribute to his contemporary hero not realising the remarkable turn of events that would transpire.
“The pandemic has taken its toll on our collective mental health and as some of the lockdown restrictions lifted we noticed what we could only presume were ‘offerings’ left on the doorstep as tribute to our secular icon.” said Tim.
“I turned up one morning to find a can of SPAM on the doorstep and then on another occasion a packet of McVities Rich Tea biscuits and I started to think something might be happening.”
Since then the gallery has cautiously opened its doors and encouraged the pilgrimage to the alter. The local community have also responded bringing handmade objects, natural as well as supermarket bought offerings.
Retired couple Rene and Cathy came to the gallery with wild strawberries, Bisto Gravy Granules and Jacobs Cream Crackers.
“Lockdown has been very hard on us and many of our friends and neighbours” says Cathy “we hope that our offering to the alter will lift the curse of Covid-19 on our little village.”
Self-identifying non-binary teen and by coincidence Perry’s namesake Grayson admits he bought the first offering to the gallery steps.
“Spam’s a big thing in Lynton” says Grayson “I wanted to leave a tribute and I just took some Spam from my mum’s house and left it outside the gallery. It doesn’t feel easy sometimes being young and different in a small village especially in lockdown and this amazing picture of a man in a wig holding a baby made me feel less alone and like everything was going to be alright.”
The portrait consigned to Tim Williams Fine Art Gallery in Lynton by artist/photographer Richard Ansett is an “inglorious pink extravaganza” of art historical and religious references. The national treasure Grayson Perry is captured in the traditional conceit of mother and child surrounded by the “shameless campery” of organza and fake flowers bathed in a halo of light. Not the traditional fair one might think for an area known for its predominantly conservative views.
Ansett’s appropriation of Perry into what he calls a "faux religious queer icon" came to Lynton from a world tour following its success at the Sony World Photography Awards, a residency at Fitzrovia Chapel, London where it was displayed alone on the alter and the Format and Arles Photo Festival. Whilst at Fitzrovia Chapel the artwork transformed from bombastic challenge to the status quo to a genuine icon in its own right and statement of the right to the sacred for all.
Tim Williams has big plans for Lynton, an art festival is high on his list to compete with Damien Hirst’s dominance of nearby Ilfracombe. “This is one of the most beautiful parts of England” says Tim “steeped in British art history. We feel the new normal could be something very special for everyone. We invite everyone to come, bring offerings to the alter in solidarity with all people that feel different and share in the beauty of nature and art.”
BIRTH: A Portrait of Grayson Perry by Richard Ansett will be on permanent display throughout 2021 at Tim Williams Fine Art, 1 Castle Hill, Lynton EX35 6JA.
Tuesday, 15 December 2020
I spent the day with David Cornwell, invited to his cottage retreat on the Cornish coast. He was very gracious and charming as one would expect. He presented as a typical middle class, white, Oxford educated elitist, the personification of the British exceptionslism cliche and a glimpse of a hidden world accessible to only a few who know the rules. Even as a white man (but clearly of a lower class) I am confronted by this passive aggressive stereotype that reminds one of one's place. Impenetrable superiority is engrained in the privileged like an inherited disease and irrespective of how delightfully eccentric, it carries the legacy of empire, the mythology of the benevolent overseer as a right and the very thing that infected the British Intelligence Service to its core. I notice this in my father's generation, a tolerance of others, a politeness barely masking a sense of unshakable entitlement.
What separates Cornwell is the recognition of these traits in himself, he is self-observant and betrays not his country but his class. The ultimate betrayal to pull back the Wizard's curtain. His gift of self-awareness and an awareness of the world he inhabited exposed to public view the ease in which the British intelligence service could be infiltrated by those who recognised hubris and this elevates him from the pap espionage writer.
He is a character in his own novels in this respect, it felt to me that I was in the company of someone that had got away with something, exiled to a remote cliff top house arrest and he played on that. The less said the better in creating an air of mystery. As the photographer I sensed he had laid out a series of visual clues to a fictitious alter ego as he showed me round his gardens and I found myself looking for clues that might betray his true allegiance, maybe as a radical Marxist traitor and conveniently my fantasy is obliged with a large, prominent socialist realist statue of a boy struggling to hold a flag pole in a strong wind. There is no pattern on the flag but I assume it is red. The perfect spy hides in plain sight I thought.
It is only fiction writers that are responsible for the romanticism that surrounds the security services. It is obstensively a bureaucratic organisation, the blandness of a civil service department where one daren't even wear colourful socks, re-invented as intrigue. The air of mystery and excitement relies on the silence, the true betrayal of the whistle blower is to expose this incredibly dull world behind the glamorous facade of Bond and Smiley.
I don't think I am betraying any national security protocols when I share that I have had a MI5 officer sitting on my toilet patiently with his cheap briefcase on his lap as I fucked a member of her majesty's armed forces in the other room. "Don't try to leave" he said with unconvincing menace. I didn't share this anecdote with John.
Cornwell personally knew the truly dangerous homosexual traitors that infiltrated the very top of the security services. One can empathise with those dazzling queers surrounded by a sea of mediocrity that is the heteronormative state. Homosexuals then would make excellent spies, it was expected and we were used to hiding our true nature. We were then an eccentric aberration to be tolerated.
Adam Sisman remarks, “only can he make the wildest nonsense about himself credible (reportedly he enjoyed “playing” on his first wife’s suspicion that he was homosexual), he has encouraged others to add to it. “I’m a liar.”, he says. “Born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living.”
Sunday, 29 November 2020
Thursday, 26 November 2020
|Ruan and Catalina, Tavistock Block, Aylesbury Estate, London (from Behind The Brutal Facade) © Richard Ansett 2020|
There are many examples in art history of this trope "in which a figure stares out from an otherwise self-contained canvas drawing the viewer in".* 'Freedom From Want' captures Norman Rockwell's neighbour in the bottom right of the composition cheekily breaking the spell of the otherwise perfectly observed and terrifyingly heteronormative scene.
|Free From Want - Norman Rockwell, 1943|
Botticelli's conceit in inserting himself amongst the most important citizens of Florence in the Adoration of the Magi still has the desired effect of bringing a radical shift in perception literally and metaphorically whilst drawing us in to join the crowd to witness this monumental moment of history.
|Adoration of the Magi, Sandro Botticelli 1476|
It creates a fascinating jolt to the psyche, often this device is explained away as more of an invitation to the viewer to cross the divide and enter into the work but its a two way street. The subject is equally joining us in our reality across the void of time and space. Its unsettling but further the use of this tactic has another profound affect on me. It is an interruption in the trusted narrative the artist has worked so hard to weave; to break the spell we are creating. It invites us to question the reality that is so convincingly on display and therefore challenges the security of our worldview . It is a device that stimulates open and existential questions about the nature of our reality beyond the everyday human experience.
One of my techniques in my relationship with a sitter is to ask them to look into the lens and 'connect' to an otherwise unknown future audience and attempt to communicate silently the message they might wish to deliver. This image however is a wonderful synergy of accident and design, a rare defining moment of a spontaneous glance when I had begun to think the defining moment was dead.
*ArtnetNews - Katie White 11.26.2020 - Here are 3 things you might not know about 'Freedom From Want.'
Monday, 14 September 2020
|Boy #1 from Boys in a City Park, Ukraine 2011 © Richard Ansett|