The first artist we encountered on this marvellous evening was artist S. Mark Gubb, who stated three things that defined him as an artist and person. The first was growing up in the sleepy seaside town of Herne Bay.
|S.Mark Gubb, The Bewildered Herd:Text Works and Other Things, 2004-2006|
Mark gave us an interesting sketch and slideshow highlighting all the times that the town where he grew up was mentioned on TV. As well as this he provided some amusing anecdotes about the scrapes he got into when growing up, one of these being the day he participated in the filming of a Jive Bunny video as an extra.
The second important factor that colours Mark’s perception of life and filters into his art was the discovery of Iron Maiden when he was 8 years old. He was encouraged by his cousin to buy the ‘Piece of Mind’ album, and was struck by the artwork and the gatefold photo of the band tucking into a meal of their mascot Eddie’s brain. This graduated in to a lifelong love of Heavy Metal, especially grindcore and anarcho-punk bands such as ‘Napalm Death’ and ‘Doom’.
The third factor that has had a bearing on Mark’s artistic ethos was growing up in the eighties. For Mark, the eighties was a time of influential politics and was host to some surreal happenings. He remembers David Hasselhoff giving a concert for the masses on top of the Brandenburg Gate and the bombing of Libya by the Americans on 5th April 1986, who used his local airport as a base. Mark believes that these various happenings had a profound effect on him and have an influence on his art even now.
To conclude the session, Mark read an extract from a text he has been writing for an exhibition at the G39 gallery in Cardiff. Mark is sending a postcard containing one hundred words to the gallery every day until June wherever he may be. This piece is entitled US of Gay and centres around the hypothetical election of Jim Waters, the first gay President of the United States.
After a short break we were treated to a Beacon conversation on the nature of collaboration, which featured Beacon’s John Plowman in conversation with artist and farmer Kate Genever.
|Kate Genever, Black Gold, 2010|
The conversation was discursive due to the fact that we as participants/collaborators were encouraged to join in. John began by asking Kate what she felt the similarities were between her artistic practice and farming.
Kate felt that there was no separation between the two and that whether artist or farmer it is only a title. In whichever role she is undertaking, whether it is with another artist or with the land and the weather, she is attempting to enforce her will. One member of the audience spoke of the belief that collaboration only occurs when the two collaborative opposites are fighting, even though you are working towards a joint goal. The logic in this being that when you engage in collaboration you cease to be the enemy and begin to solve problems.
She moved on to talk about her involvement with collaborator Steve in a regeneration project in North Sheffield, called Parsons Cross for which they have received public funding. In the same way as farming, Kate and Steve’s practice is purposeful and fulfils a need: a shared growing building with which they fight to push their vision out. Sometimes co-authored they act as a catalyst, as the actual ownership of the work they find irrelevant. Kate is particularly disinterested in the idea of the artist as a deity, mystic or shaman, and is interested in the collapse of this concept. John then suggested that it is not the collapsing of the concept that is important but rather a question of the position you are in, and wondered if collaboration is the right term. He discussed that in their work Kate and Steve are interested in creating a space for discussion which is distinctly non-hierarchical and is a question of sharing with the people you are with. He deliberated if participation was a better term.
Kate and Steve’s job is to use their pot of money in the best possible way within the parameters of the situation. Kate agreed with this but then stated that whatever the correct term is, the important thing is to like who you are working with and be able to start to share towards an unknown end.
|Jonathan Roberts, Trolley, 2011|
The final guest artist of the evening was artist/sculptor Jonathan Roberts who is interested in the absurd figure, the questioning of hierarchy and more importantly devaluing the hierarchy of art. In a similar manner to the S. Mark Gubb, Jonathan was brought up in a seaside town in North Wales called Prestatyn which is only famous, according to the artist, because it is next door to Rhyll.
As a teenager Jonathan used to sell sugar penises at the seaside, which holiday makers would buy and take home for their Grandmas. Jonathan noticed that when you take these strange objects away from the seaside they turn into something strangely ridiculous. This thought has stayed with Jonathan throughout his artistic practice alongside the bawdy humour of the seaside postcard.
Jonathan originally trained in ceramics and was struck by the idea of sculpture as a high status symbol, and began throwing concrete in place of clay. The artist suggested that this was a definite intentionally futile endeavour. The sculptures were created so that spectator would have to kneel on the floor and read the seaside gag beneath it.
One of the pieces that Jonathan created in order to make sculpture throwaway was “Twenty Mayfair”. This consisted of twenty cigarette packet casts covered with Ultra-Violet paint and scattered around. The piece glows in the dark and resonates when the lights are off but when seen in the light the cigarette cartons just look like debris.
Recently Jonathan has been collaborating with a comedy writer. This relationship is one of mutual respect and he showed us a short film based on the idea of combining art with comedy, which we all really enjoyed.
Jonathan’s work, like S.Mark Gubb’s, has an autobiographical element.
The next work he showed us was based on his childhood in Prestatyn at a time when his sister was chosen as the Carnival queen, where he is shown at the back of the float dressed as an ostrich. This watered-down version of the Carnival, for Jonathan is as far away from Mardi-Gras as possible and shows the figure of the Carnival queen as an object of desire, whereas poor old Jonathan had to dress as an Ostrich and was an object of ridicule. This objectification of the female and male form is an important influence in Jonathan’s latest work and he has decided to show this by the removal of the figure completely. For example, Jonathan has taken a famous picture of ‘femme fatale’ Christine Keeler and removed her figure to reveal the surrounding area.
Another Beacon Bi-Monthly drew to a close and I believe a fantastic and illuminating time was had by all. See you all next time, surreally yours, James Phaily