I popped into the Plimsoll Gallery with colleagues early this week to see New Deities an exhibition curated by Catherine Wolfhagen for the CAST Touring program. It’s a show about the cult of celebrity and generally the work is stuff that you could predict would feature – paintings drawn from trash celebrity rags, collages drawn from trash celebrity rags, scratch video re-edited from films starring particularly dull celebrities ie: Tom Cruise and one artist (Monica Tikachek) big enough in career stature to actually get a celebrity (of sorts – Amanda Lepore) to appear in their work.
My friend and occasional collaborator, John Vella, took a very different approach however, and is more concerned with celebrity within the art world. I was more interested in this too really. I’ve already seen more than enough of Tom Cruise, P Diddy and Britney Spears. Well… actually if I’m truthful maybe not quite enough of Britney Spears just yet…
John’s stuff is usually pretty cheeky (bordering on bratty) and very occasionally doesn’t work. When it does work though, its pretty funny stuff. RICKY SWALLOWS(Sometimes it’s as if we all have Parkinson’s disease) [did I get that right?] seems to be J’s ho-de-ho pranks refined to more abstract punchline and I like this best of all.
I have to kneel on a padded bench to stick my head into a light-emitting hole in a large, raw plywood box. Inside the words RICKY SWALLOWS* float backlit by a roving light that you eventually recognise through motion and sound as a re-purposed scanner that creates a moving sunray of shadows around the text. All the while, a recording of a piano gently tinkles away at the theme of Michael Parkinson’s cosy Saturday night celebrity talk show theme.
Oh look I found an image on the Plimsoll website…
EDIT: Poo. It’s been removed.
There’s no photog credit so I’ll say it’s courtesy of the artist.
I love John’s slightly green-tinged, art-bitch-in-a-box approach because it feels like more than just observation. It feels like… a feeling. A response to something. And that feels honest. I guess that’s probably the difference between it and the other works in the show.
Cheers JV. Thanks for that, Duck.
* NOTE for non-Australians. An artist named Ricky Swallow is kind of Australia’s Damien Hirst right now.