We’re back in the new year and new artist talks are in progress. This week’s was Simon Bedwell, who has worked closely with a lecturer in the art department. Once again, we had an email about the artist in question with a bit of detail about him;
Simon Bedwell lives and works in London and was a founder member of the art group BANK (1991 – 2003), who made a series of sprawling installations involving their own work and others’ in independent gallery spaces including DOG and Gallerie Poo Poo, and in a mode which today might be called curation (it wasn’t, it was art). Since the group folded he has shown work ranging from altered found posters, through to installations of furniture, painting and décor made and found, through to large scale ceramics; the areas of concern have moved from pseudo-politics, through gender issues and more recently towards an interest in long-discredited ideas around originality, form and autonomy.
Simon Bedwell has had solo shows in White Columns, New York; Rental, Los Angeles; Ha Gamle, Stavanger, Norway; and Piccadilly underground concourse. He has been included in group shows in Temple Bar, Dublin; Saatchi gallery, London; Orchard, New York; CCA, Glasgow; and ICA London. His most recent shows include solo show No at Piper Keys, London and group show In A Dream I Saw A Way To Survive And I Was Full Of Joy at Whitworth, Manchester.
Review: Simon Bedwell at Studio Voltaire, London, UK, Frieze, 2009
Simon Bedwell, Asphalt World, at Studio Voltaire, London, 2009
Simon Bedwell at White Columns, New York, 2007
Simon Bedwell/Saatchi site:
He began the talk by mentioning that everything that has happened in the world within the past six months has changed the way that a lot of people look and interpret his artwork. It has given his work a different temper and tempo. This was almost a warning as if to say that we should think about the past, before the past six months, as if to look at the artwork in the intended purposes. It also shows that some of the jokes aren’t funny any more and so the artwork comes and goes, just like the jokes do.
In 1987 elections, Simon lived in a posh part of town where they got flyers about one of the candidates names ‘Burns’. At night, he went around and cut out the ‘s’ to stick it back on to the end of the word ‘conservative’. He told us that no one knew that it was him because he did it at night and also this was one of the first artistic publicity stunts that he has done.
Simon Bedwell was also part of the group named Bank who found knackered old building and put up art galleries and shows inside. It initially started off as a way of not sitting around and not doing anything and for art galleries to come to them, not them go to the gallery. Simon commented that making things as a group and putting it in a show, was better than making a group show. This makes us ask, what is the point of a group show? Bank did everything to do with the show including publicity and advertising. They also labelled this as artwork. Later on in their shows, they used old artworks and new students works and gave them weird names to sort of laugh at the irony of the group show. Simon commented that the 90’s helped the progression of the Bank group as it was heightened time when Britpac exploded into action. The spirit and the sprawl of the work that Bank created has always been strong, but the artwork grew, and kept growing.
As part of the shows, the mailing list and invitations were important as more often than not, more people would get these through their door than come to the show. They created their own tabloid to match these, however they got a lot of stick for it in the art world as it offended many in the art world. This cast a shadow over the Bank group. Bank also started to correct press releases by writing over them and giving them a score out of ten. The catch it that they faxed it back to the galleries, for which they did hundred and showed the galleries that there was so much crap talked about in the press releases. They got some rude replies telling them to pretty much shut up and go away with their idiotic opinions.
Bank unfortunately got their funding cut and so the last show they did only lasted for 3 days. This show presented all the press releases that they had drawn all over.
Simon then moved on by himself to look at drawing and painting on top of posters that were found in charity shops and left on walls. These posters often had one liner jokes on them in a somewhat sarcastic manner. Simon used spray paint on the posters which created a gloopy texture on top of the smooth surface. At the same time as this, he was creating paintings that originated from clip art. These turned out like the posters and also had the gloopy effect. All of these were in a somewhat parallel ‘universe’ as people have these posters normally on their walls, while Simon is painting all over them.
On a brief note, there was a mention that he completed work on the Piccadilly Circus Underground in London – a block colour, bad to read style posters.
50 Platform was the next project on the list, which was a traditional gentleman’s club where women were not allowed in, and the rest of the rules were put in place. Simon did apply to go against the sexual discrimination act for this artwork, but unfortunately, this was rejected half way through the showings. In the window, there was a painting in order to block out the view of the rest of the gentleman’s club. This was a painting of a photo of a woman in her pants and bra. This was inspired of a painting, or photo, that was looking through a window and a lady was looking down at herself getting changed while a gentleman was looking past her staring at a lady in her underwear on the wall.
He did lots of little works after this including that of The Researchers. In academia, you have to call it research/ers, not art/ists. He did this in two sections – one of this was a lobby where it was all shabby and nonprofessional, and the second part looked at the researchers themselves and how Simon though that they would look. This includes cut outs of magazine people scrambling naked in the beach, as though they were looking for something.
Next up was looking at decor and art and whether there was a difference between them both. In this, he was inspired by Sorlin Green to create a calming room and atmosphere by using screen printing, pots and posters.
Zerox books were little books that Simon created that looked at different artworks and exhibitions by using pictures and found quotes. These would often accompany exhibitions and galleries would sell them to the customers coming through the door. There was also The MOT and The Receivers which were follow-on’s from his New York show.
He then began to look at metal work, ceramics and painted scenes. Simon created the caricature of a male space and decided to look at the difference between the aesthetics of a male space and other spaces. Within one of these spaces, The Painter of a Hole, Simon placed yellow gel over the windows in order to create a sickly yellow glow throughout the exhibition space. The Hole, which linked to this, was his own gallery space that was made out of a garage like space. Katrina Palmer showed her work here. This space was created in order to have a purist space in which only one artist could exhibit at a time. He talked a lot about the moment and the event in the moment of time so the Hole was a pure space. You could not overwhelm this space.
After The Hole was shut down, Simon moved on to ceramics. He mentioned that he didn’t know why he did it but it was more or less the fact that it was the best of a list of things that he didn’t want to do. He used the real basics of clay – “the romantic bullshit about clay” including the way that it feels, and moves. Simon always creates pots so that there is some sort of functionality to them, and he is not just creating something random. Some of the pots double back at the bottom so when looking down, it has a double neck and you can see the floor through the neck. A lot of the pots don’t survive the firing process. Now, Simon is looking more at balancing, weight and matter in a slow and impractical materials in the embarrassing side of portraiture.
He does not want to be contemporary – his one-liner manifesto. Simon also mentioned that he found it weird and strange that 35 years ago the did paintings of the things like the sculpture work he is doing now. Certain things just stick with you when doing artwork, even though 35 years.