THE heat and a headache; a compliment and a kiss on the cheek from a perfect stranger. Lost in completely the wrong direction on an upside down map. Walking in circles, putting two and two together, a chance encounter, then finally stumbling into our destination, fashionably on time. The Cob Gallery, Camden. The Pain Of Desire by way of Surreal Women – sounds like a hard to find, highly-fetishised, out of print seven-inch by an obscure, post-punk band. Inside and comparisons aside, a new collection of works by Wendy Bevan is on display as well as extracts from her editorial archive and a buying exhibition concept store curated by Guts For Garters. Bevan’s work intends to explore ideas of “the theatricality of female desire, and the inner pain suffered through the pursuit of prescribed notions of identity and success”. We shall see.
A cactus chair, taxidermy with moustaches, a bed growing vines, jewellery mimicking vaginas, clothing, ornaments, dolls, handbags. A cluttered bedroom of a deranged hoarder will see you tripping over one idea after another, or at least have you scratching your head and reaching for your wallet.
A body under scrutiny and great lengths, tortured expressions, nudity, camera manipulation. Work of a queer and vintage feel, word play and legitimately affected imagery – but reproduction skills are not what is on display. Intimate self-portraits of burning hell, equally self-aggrandizing as self-depreciating, Myspace style photographs from one hundred years ago perhaps, the drawn out act and the thin line which divides the two. Distorted perception and appearance, fish-eye lens. Faded colour and surreal vernacular, ornaments of mistrust, instruments of time forgotten and passed on. Elegant and poised females posed, hard jaw lines impeccably dressed, strong, seductive fine art, caught in the moment of some emotion love and hate, damaged pastels, watercolour celluloid, beautifully executed, but perhaps to state such a flowery sentiment in such a circumstance is to set myself up for a fall. Vaudevillian girls in half dressed state, showgirls, perhaps a troupe of some kind or maybe a gang, the definite sense of camaraderie. The editorial work stirring and astounding, but confusing when hung right next to the personal work. A ceremonial gown of some kind, calling to mind Kenneth Anger or Alejandro Jodorowsky, marionettes dangle, made up and mangled, tiled eyes watch on and up skirts. Well dressed excess, am I coming or going?
Film stills (from an absent film) of Bevan’s collaboration with Tomihiro Konoi; hairstylist, artist, photographer, filmmaker and prop devisor. True surreal masterpieces, genuine articles, the real deal, images familiar, but just foreign enough to stir intrigue, resembling visions plucked from the black and white hanging of ‘the greats’ unrealized to-do list. I only wish I were possible to see the work in motion without having to pay for the pleasure.
Cut and paste opening night attendees; the tamed, caged, tourists and standard fair all sip complimentary alcohol and joke themselves about so and so or such and such and ‘where are you holidaying this year’, self-important, self-obsessed. David Bowie’s greatest hits playing loudly from the in-house sound system not sitting quite right or conductive to the evening and events atmosphere, track by track, a reminder of another reality, more and more distracted, the music not lending itself to these female landscapes, yes, Bowie’s glam and androgynous appetite will have your mother not sure if you’re a boy or a girl, but I think something a little more subdued and considered would have been more conductive to the black walls and night’s certain tone more so.
Intricate, thought-provoking, dreamed nightmare, Guts For Garters’ pop-up concept store, surreal women indeed, bits and bobs and everything else in between. From the plainly provoking or attempts at the subtle and considered, practical or at least semi-practical to the outright useless, yet art needs no purpose. A cactus chair, taxidermy with moustaches, a bed growing vines, jewellery mimicking vaginas, clothing, ornaments, dolls, handbags. A cluttered bedroom of a deranged hoarder will see you tripping over one idea after another, or at least have you scratching your head and reaching for your wallet.
My night coming to an end, walking around, I find myself at a bit of a loss and unsure what I am looking at. ‘Surreal Women’/‘The Pain Of Desire’, where does one end and the other begin? Is this some division between the two? I realise such a question raised demonstrates a certain lack of prudence and rationality on my behalf, but wondering as I wondered, is there some deeper intertextuality at play? Some link that my foresight was too dim to cast light upon? Or was the simple notion of female interest, the tenuous all-encompassing brush stroke, the one strand of coherence linking to the two subjects of together? Is there such intercontexuality between the two? The long standing tug of war of the sexes, have your cake and eat it, I will happily stand corrected, surreal indeed.
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