Photo: Kate Bowe O'Brien
Frances Disley / David Jacques / Brendan Lyons / Paul Rooney
13 February – 27 February
The Complex presents Crossings a group show with Frances Disley, David Jacques, Brendan Lyons and Paul Rooney, reflecting a sample of Liverpool’s contemporary art scene, cross pollinating, expanding networks and translating knowledge from the visual culture of these twinned cities. Over the past two years The Complex has actively formed networks in Liverpool through studio visits and site visits at various institutions and artist led spaces such as Bluecoat and The Royal Standard.
All four artists in the show span a multitude of disciplines including installation, video, sound, performance, painting and text. Throughout each artist’s practice is a striving to create their own, sometimes fictitious narrative deriving from research-based beginnings. These often stem from social, political and historical contexts.
Paul Rooney’s text, sound and video works focus on the instabilities and deceptions of language and narrative, particularly in relation to representing place and the historical past. The pieces present differing storytelling ‘voices’, often from ‘real’ sources, which are then rendered and sometimes deliberately and humorously disrupted through stylistic or formal play. This and other aspects of the works reinforce the artifice of the artistic process and the aesthetic encounter, but also imply that the boundaries between fact and fiction are not always clearly defined, and that constructed representational forms – for all their flaws and deceit – are all we have to engage with the world.
Rooney presents a video work, The Creeping Things (Paul Rooney) - New Theme to Still at Large, containing a female monologue on the track, remorselessly intoning about a male figure on the run from an unspoken crime. This figure is up to his neck in the sea, in the manner of St. Cuthbert, who liked inducing trances by the chill of the water. The voice chants of the fugitive’s many ‘hyperthermal’ apocalyptic reveries, until the monologue seemingly drowns in its own twisted poetic vitriol. The voice, and the figure it describes, both seem to be hunting for something or someone.
David Jacques’ practice engages with the subject of history, its narrative interpretations and the interplay between factual and fictional modes of representation. His interest in history often results in the exploration of forgotten, marginalised and socially/politically disruptive sources. In Crossings, he presents a brand new body of work, based around a failed biotech startup located in a dilapidated ex-Industrial Estate in Liverpool, attempting to pass itself off as a business park. The physical remnants left behind from this Biotech ‘chop shop’ include some lab and office equipment, a portfolio of designs, an unfinished promotional video, a number of 3D Protein models gone feral. The work is realised through sculpture, video, painting and collage.
Exploring the potential of working with performance, Frances Disley expands the gesture of painting across sculptures, garments and backdrops. These elements are always inhabited by and presented in relation to the moving body – objects, surfaces and bodies become integrated and activated. She presents performances that are in a state of flux and which open up opportunities for the audience to participate, encouraging their own embodied experience of the work. As a starting point Disley explores activities associated with the desire for self-betterment. Recent multi-sensory performance works have drawn from the vocabulary of popular activities associated with wellness such as meditation, aromatherapy and exercise classes.
For Crossings Disley presents a video of her most recent performance at Bluecoat, Tripleflex, as part of LEAP DANCE Festival 2019. Merging visual art and dance, she presented an immersive installation activated by contemporary dance artists, accompanied by a newly commissioned soundtrack from techno producer MT Hall.
Brendan Lyons has developed techniques over the years which allow him to manipulate paint into forms through which he investigates the possibilities of the medium itself, especially in its most viscous and delicate states. Lyons produces dried skins of pure acrylic paint which he then applies to and covers various supports and continues to add further paint to produce an often complex and intricate surface.
This form of painting pulls paint from its static form and introduces movement into the composition. Almost animated, each painting leaves traces of physical intervention, leaving behind evidence of possible narratives. The surfaces are often playful and fantastical, revealing frozen moments of intense activity and interactions.
For this exhibition The Complex encourages dialogue and inspires routes of artistic exchange. This is with the intention of creating future opportunities and collaborations on both sides of the sea.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Frances Disley is based in The Royal Standard, Liverpool and was a Liverpool Biennial Associate Artist (2016), her work has recently become part of the Arts Council Collection. Recent works include Tripleflex at Bluecoat, as part of LEAP Dance Festival 2019 merging visual art and dance. She presented an immersive installation activated by contemporary dance artists, accompanied by a newly commissioned soundtrack from techno producer MT Hall. Tripleflex explored the potential of working with performance to expand the gesture of painting across garments, sculptures and flooring, acting as a guide or score for the performers.
Also in 2019 Disley presented Cucumber Fell in the Sand an exhibition at Humber Street Gallery Hull alongside collaborators. Through her ongoing interest in the subject of trends around self-care, she investigated Hull’s rich heritage around food, with an exhibition that featured sculpture, painting, textiles and plant life. Cucumber Fell in the Sand was supported by an extensive programme of activities, events and take home objects that celebrated the goodness of people and nature. She designed a habitat based around comfort and consumption, where every aspect is interlinked. Soft furnishings were dyed with natural pigments such as turmeric, nettle and avocado pitt and filled with scented soft furnishings as an invitation to spend time and relax with the artwork. In the space viewers were encouraged to pay attention to what makes you feel good and why, with artwork that stimulates all the senses beyond just the visual.
Recent Exhibitions, projects and performances include : Cucumber Fell in the Sand, Humber Street Gallery, Hull (2019); Tripleflex, Bluecoat, Liverpool, (2019); Solo Show, OUTPUT Gallery, Liverpool, (2019); Inner Landscapes, Hilbert Raum, Berlin, (2019); Residency - Activation #1, Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, (2019); We Are Where We Are, Baltic 39, Newcastle, (2018); RRR & R&R as part of At the Libraries, Sefton Libraries, (2018); Mustard Blanket, Grampian Hospital Arts Trust, Aberdeen, (2018); Abacus, Bluecoat, Liverpool, (2017).
David Jacques is a U.K. based multi-media artist whose work involves intricate narratives constructed through an interweaving of documentary and mythological content. His projects are underpinned by intense periods of study surrounding prevalent socio-political issues, influenced in the main by the Situationist practice of ‘Militant Research’. His conflated tales are reflexively shaped by whatever media he has employed and generally orientate around historiographic, speculative and ‘weird’ outcomes. Recent exhibitions / screenings include: ‘Strata, Rock, Dust, Stars’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Panama City & York Mediale UK (2018-19); Hinterland, Corner College, Zurich Switzerland (2018); Digital Ecologies SKLAD Plovdiv Bulgaria (2018); Blow-up, International Arthouse Film Festival, Chicago USA (2017); Solo exhibitions include Triskel Christchurch, Cork Ireland (2017); Walker Art Gallery Liverpool (2011) and Galerie Display, Koln Germany (2014).
Lyons has developed techniques over the years of his practice which allow him to manipulate the paint into forms through which he investigates the possibilities of the medium itself, especially in its most viscous and delicate states. Lyons produces dried skins of pure acrylic paint (with no other element involved) which he then applies to and covers various supports (such as wood and metal) and continues to add further paint to produce an often complex and intricate painted surface. In other works there is more of a simple ‘peeling’ effect as the paint skin appears to come away from its support.
This recent series of work engages with a relationship between paint and support. In all of these, the painted surface is separating from the various types of support in what appears to be a simple peeling action and yet we are also aware that this is not a natural action for the paint. It is a pleasing effect and yet also disconcerting and curious. Each sheet of paint consists of solid paint alone (with no internal support) showing the material in a pure and simple form, heightened by using a single colour.
These works play with our understanding of the materials of paint and support and separate the two and yet they remain attached. The simplicity of composition and colour still allow a complexity of thought and freeze the paintings in a moment in time.
The surfaces are often playful and almost fantastical, creating little worlds of interactions. Brushstrokes and paint splashes which almost seem to be alive with movement that has been frozen in a moment of activity. The paint interacts with itself and its support with curiosity and playfulness (or perhaps violence) and some parts are not quite metal, skin or slate - but also not quite paint either. Elements of paint emerge through the surface layer and the support. There is a blurring between the medium, the support and that which it may be depicting. Somewhere between solid and fluid - somewhere between active and still – somewhere between surface and support.
Recent exhibitions: Plus One Connect, APT Gallery, London (2019); Paint, PS Mirabel Gallery, Manchester (2019); C’est de la Peinture!, Bankley Gallery,
Manchester (2018); Possible Impossibilities, Bridewell Gallery, Liverpool (2013);
ING Discerning Eye, (invited artist) Mall Galleries, London (2012); Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Space, London, (2004 & 2011); Pile, Chapter, Cardiff, (2011); Paintings, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, (2010); Superscope, Lounge / Monika Bobinska, London (2008).
Rooney is an artist/musician based in Liverpool, who makes music with words “investigating the intersections of music, myth, memory and place” (The Wire magazine). His records and installations explore the unpredictable narratives that haunt everyday objects or places, and the comically unreliable nature of narrative itself.
Paul Rooney’s installations, videos and texts have been commissioned by organisations such as Film and Video Umbrella, The Drawing Room and Tate Liverpool, or have been made during artist residencies at places like DCA, Dundee; Proyecto Batiscafo, Cuba; and University of Oxford/Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. He has shown work at Tate Britain; The Arnolfini; BALTIC; Whitechapel Gallery; and ICA; and has exhibited internationally at places such as Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Seville) and at the Shanghai Biennial.
Works by Rooney were included in the British Council show Electric Earth: Film and Video from Britain, which toured to eighteen international venues from 2003 to 2006; British Art Show 6, which toured around the UK in (2005-2006); and Running Time: Artist Films in Scotland 1960 to Now, shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2009). Other projects include solo exhibitions at Site Gallery, Sheffield (with Susan Philips), Matt’s Gallery, London and the Liverpool Biennial; a site-specific sound ‘lecture’ in Leeds for Sound and Music and MAAP; and a museum object divination website for University of Cambridge Museums. He was the winner of the second Northern Art Prize (2008), and two of his installations were purchased for the Arts Council Collection (2015).
Paul Rooney’s records have been broadcast on BBC Radios 1, 3, 6 Music, Cymru and Scotland amongst many other stations. His first full length album since 2000, Futile Exorcise – sung and spoken word post-punk experimental folk revenant songs featuring ghosts playing poker and haunting toilet seats – was released in 2017 on Owd Scrat Records. This label is a current ongoing project by Rooney and other collaborators in which all of the artists are fictional personae with often longstanding and interrelated backstories (or semi-fictional backstories in the case of one of the artists, Rooney himself, who is often implicated within his own fictions).