Saturday, 20 April 2019

Foreign Trade - A Celebration of Queer Migration

William Garvin visits an exhibition infused with the ghosts of Caravaggio and Leigh Bowery. Frilly collars, cascades of semi-naked males and glints of Kimt-like gold add to the subversive queering of classicism in this Duovision curated show at The Gallery in Liverpool.
Foreign Trade showcases works by a range of LGBTQI artists, who were born overseas but have chosen the UK as a place to live and work. Publicity for the exhibition locates the genesis of queer migration in the Australian-born visionary Leigh Bowery: an artist seemingly not only in a hurry to reinvent himself, but to reinvent reality itself. Something of the latter's spirit resonates within the transgressive, culture-clashing energy of the works on display: a cohesion further reinforced by the fact that some artists were chosen to appear on the recommendation of other featured artists. If anything, the ongoing uncertainty about Britain's future relationship with the European Union, provides an added political dimension.
James Lawler and Martin Green, who co-curated the show under the collective title Duovision have, as ever, selected works according to their visual strengths, rather than perceived notions of artists' reputations. Consequently, the viewer is assailed from each and every angle by images which insinuate themselves in the memory. Gozra Lozano's reflected image of Pete Burns as a seductive mistress, for example, gazing into her nocturnal mirror, could be a still from an alternative Twin Peaks.
Ram Shergill, with partner Daen Huse, create performative, dreamlike images blurring boundaries between art and fashion: an ecclesiastically attired female figure shimmers in Klimt gold; a cascade of semi-naked males is coloured & lit by the ghost of Caravaggio. Influences are both acknowledged and subtly repurposed: the viewer left to provide narrative context, sharing in the works' pervasive atmosphere of metamorphosis. 

L to R: Phillip Prokopiou, Ram Shergill, Angelo Corsi & Dee Stanford.

Angelo Corsi, whose work is being exhibited for the very first time, is a self-taught painter whose singularity of vision is expressed in the form of baroque actors painted on pieces of hardboard found randomly in the street. Great attention is paid to the complex intricacies of theatrical costume: the exaggerated frilly collars, for example, seeming like worlds within themselves. These images appear to have spontaneously arisen from their own mysterious but compelling need to exist, suggesting an artist completely unconcerned whether anyone is paying attention or not, and who on account of that, perhaps, could go on to attract a lot of attention. 

L to R: Ram Shergill, Jason Carr & Angelo Corsi.

Phillip Prokopiou's politics of representation takes the form of an artfully reimagined classicism, complete with set designs and make-up (featuring valuable assistance from Luke Harris, as well as life partner Panos Poimenidis, amongst others). Photographic models pose as classical statues: a sheen of body make-up creating an effect at once iconic and ironic: the collaborative whole staged with sufficient style and beauty as to grace the pages of a recent Vogue Italia

L to R: images & sculpture by Dee Stanford, other images by Phillip Prokopiou & Ram Shergill.

Foreign Trade is a group exhibition in the best sense of the term, in that all the works displayed seem to bounce off and energise one another. As a consequence, the critic can only fall short, as this one clearly has, in highlighting some artists at the expense of others. It goes without saying that other reviewers may have preferred to emphasise the images & iron sculpture of Dee Stanford, for example, or Jason Carr's portraits, or the vases & ceramic chains of William Martin; the performative images of Thierry Alexandre, or the exotic, culture-clashing costumes of Michael Wilkinson and Tim Martin. 

L to R: images by Phillip Prokopiou, vases & ceramic chains by William Martin, image by Ram Shergill.

Next on the Duovision calendar is a series of commemorations celebrating forty years since the opening of London's Blitz nightclub, which promises to be special.

William Garvin

Foreign Trade
1-31 March 2019
The Gallery
First floor, The Courtyard, 41 Stanhope St, Liverpool, L8 5RE