canvas, paint, fiberglass poles, rope, netting, thread, tape, plastic sheeting
The Body and Ground (or Your Lovely Smile), Griffiths has created an over-sized bear head literally pushing and pulling against the very parameters of the gallery space. These ties force the bear into shape and suggest a kind of submission, recalling the tale of Gulliver’s encounter with the Lilliputians or a type of outmoded circus performance. The bear, a powerful and sometimes dangerous beast is culturally constructed into an object of comfort and cuddles. Almost human, its opened eyes confront passers-by and look out through the windows to spaces beyond.
The title of this work, The Body and Ground (or Your Lovely Smile), in part references the history of painting as a mechanism of representation while asserting the role of form, placement and context. It also knowingly sets up a confusion between viewer and art object – whose body is referred to? As the viewer nimbly navigates around the head and ropes in the space, there is only one shared ground. The hybrid tent-like formation and the giant size calls attention to the crumpled surface and to the divide between inside and outside and, by implication, subject and object. Its gigantification suggests novelty, façade over content and an overt public display. Is bigger always better or does it reveal a certain hollowness or emptiness? This is further complicated by its location on the first floor of the gallery space that resembles a shop front, it becomes an object to be consumed, a display of shabby and fallible charm. Its isolation is dramatically emphasized as it sits awkwardly as a container within another container.
As both character and setting, the installation is a theatrical construction, an ornate prop that slowly reveals its own artifice. This form is literally propped up momentarily, performing for the viewer but capable of being deflated and shipped away to its next site. At the back of the head, embroidered patches of places, souvenirs of past travels, suggesting previous locations from Ohio to Paris and Innsbruck, are attached by patient hand sewing. In layering these collectibles onto the form, it questions the role of our relationships with all objects, and how they come to speak of places, history and above all ourselves and how collections becomes a way of reframing, enclosing and classifying the world.
For this new sculptural work, Brian Griffiths could be described as an avid collector of things. Employing everyday materials, crafts, objects, collections, literary references and storytelling, he creates multiple layered sculptural installations in which distinctions between high and low culture, fiction and reality and notions of public and private are blurred. Objects and familiar materials become a vocabulary or shorthand that is used to combine innocent curiosity, humour and pathos. Griffiths lives and works in London, England.