6th February – 24th April 2021
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Homo Suburbiensis gives equal weight to the artist’s practices of painting and moving image. Through formal and conceptual links, most obviously through the image as sequenced in both painted and cinematic form, a dialogue is established between a single-channel moving image work, and a series of paintings.
Unmounted and leaning directly against the gallery wall, Gladwell’s new paintings are formatted and installed to the same specifications as the artist’s ‘Anonymous Figures’ series from the 1990s and early 2000s. Variation is expressed within a self imposed convention that uses skateboard wheels as physical supports – an affirmation of objects supporting images. The paintings continue to appropriate and juxtapose images from the history of painting and graphic illustration in either direct dialogue to the video, via harmonised colour, or through discursive links such as movement and scale that lead back to questions of the body.
The video, Homo Suburbiensis (2020), after which the exhibition is titled, surveys everyday actions. Initially, these are performed and defined separately but soon they merge into catenated, hybrid movements.
The work significantly develops Gladwell’s ongoing study of human movement through its use of the film-essay and scientific documentary structure, and continues the artist’s ongoing engagement with performative action as a way to creatively mis-use objects and environments. Homo Suburbiensis (2020) considers the relationship of action to actor in physical and virtual spaces that offer absurd dislocations. The use of voice-over and cinematic framing presents a faux-scientific observation of everyday activities such as eating, running and dancing. Initially ‘classified’ as separate and distinct, the actions eventually synthesise into hybrid forms.
Human movement takes central importance in the video work as a way to challenge and transform the design and intended function of one’s immediate environment, from object and tools, to a questioning of the body itself and its capacity to act within various public and private spaces. (Function and creative misuse as a norm.) Non functional art objects are momentarily ‘used’ in Homo Suburbiensis (2020). Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’ sculptures are appropriated as readymade platforms for yoga; a kitchen bench becomes a stage for balancing a BMX bicycle.
The significance of finding new function within the domestic has recently shifted for many people in the world. Over the past few months, the creative use of objects and spaces was not merely experimental, but necessary due to the social restrictions in place. In the case of Homo Suburbiensis (2020), we see an almost futile effort by the individual to translate outdoor activities into domestic interiors, while extending the notion of exercise, running in particular, to its most contemporary extreme, the ultra-marathon. Shaun Gladwell mutates it into art.