artist / participant
All I do now is dick around, when the sun goes up and the moon comes out When the leaves are green and the leaves are brown All I do now is dick around Sparks Dick Around (2006)
Key to Pollard’s art is the frission of play, pleasure and revelation that emerges from studio praxis, the imaginative reverie that surfaces amidst a process of trial and error and concludes only in a summation of mistakes. The distorted materials that feature in the work are born of the school art room, basic mark-making tools that might be used to begin work or translate form: articulated rulers, pencils, rubbers and paintbrushes. As the artist’s hand disintegrates, they seem to mechanically animate themselves into creatures, figures, profiles and strange scenarios. The anthropomorphic forms often take the guise of creatures or beasts, departing the cocoon of the studio to start a life on their own. The fog of genesis cleared by closer inspection, we see that this is a purposely phoney autonomy. The tools are evidently surreal trompe l’œil plaster casts, hand painted by Pollard, treated as ready-mades and arranged with Picabiaesque gaiety. The work is intrinsically contradictory, displaying equal measures of the improvised and the hyper self-reflexive; it is seemingly creatio ex nihilo, born of a creative block, the kind of procrastinating emptiness that forms the bedrock of Phillip Guston’s ‘crapola’ and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like Pollard and Iain Hetherington’s zines Mainstream and Radical Vans and Carriages, Disintegrating Hand and Other Works appear to transpire spontaneously upon nothing, swiftly flourishing into progressively absurd, operatic and implausibly fantastical outcomes.
Cat Monkey is a sculpture based on the beast of Borneo, a new species of Lemur found in remote jungle this year. Made of bronze painted in oil paint and enamel, the cat monkey is a romantic and humorous representation of studio improvisation. The mysticism of the Borneo beast relates to the auto generative logic of the composition. The creatures appear to have formulated themselves, like Burroughsian bug typewriters. Things are substituted for other things. The beast’s head is a surrogate crudely constructed from what appears to be a scrunched up ball of corrugated cardboard, the body concocted from melted Dali-esque articulated rulers.
DistortedHand is loosely based on another kind of mythical beast, the lycanthrope, a psychiatric delusion commonly dramatised in the form of horror movie metamorphosis. John Landis famously exploited this to black comic effect in AmericanWerewolfin London (1981), using a point of view shot to reveal the shapeshifting American student David (David Naughton) watching his hand turnskin as Sam Cooke's Blue Moon plays on the radio. DistortedHand is a blackly humorous paradox of similar sorts, a mongrel in-between form produced by an entirely fictitious and implausible ‘split-self’.
Pixilated Crowd translates the biomorphic abstraction favoured by modernist chance artists such as Hans Arp into something figurative and contemporary, reminding us that the abstract pixels of a digital monitor are predominately used for illustrative purposes. Having made plaster copies of erasers, Pollard placed them on a board and shook it. In the event, a loosely formed crowd scene emerged in pixilated form. All that remains is an elementary humanoid series of forms, the super low-resolution armature laid bare for the viewer to probe.
Snake was constructed in a similarly automatic fashion. Floatsam and jetsam from other works were recycled on a piece of MDF and then shaken (not stirred) until a loose snake-like form appeared. The snake looks a little pathetic – it seems to be made from trash, like a torch singer celebrating things that get lost in the slipstream of super-fast pop culture.
8-bit Landscape is a scene that looks like a Commodore 64 platform game. Again, detritus from abandoned works allowed Pollard to explore the free play of the imagination. In as much as Pollard limits himself to a reduced vocabulary, sepia-tinted technology such as 8-bit computers placed greater limitations on programmers and end users than we expect from today’s hardware. These restrictions frequently offered greater opportunities to programmers because of the enormous technical challenges they set, and better gaming to consumers in the form of far wider gaps they left to be filled by the imagination. 8-bit Landscape equates the art historical yearning for a bucolic idyll with the holy grail of cleanly-coded perfect-play, uniformly nostalgic and melancholic desires.
Figures is a re-working in bronze of a work shown in the Edinburgh instalment of Collective Memory, the Scottish pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Two figures made from distorted representations of Staedtler pencils can be seen engaged in a boxing match an image produced by day dreaming in the studio. The fight scene is very reminiscent of Giovanni Battista Braccelli’s Bizzarie di Varie Figureetchings (1624) wherein tools curiously form themselves into battle soldiers that then fight amongst themselves. The design of the pencils instantly makes the viewer think of uniforms and institutions but the childish detournment of their original function is vivacious.
Face is made on a found piece of wood. The wobbly representations of nails are arranged to suggest a face that glares back at the viewer offering a very basic set of pictorial schema for the human visage.
Beast is loosely based on the form of a diplodocus dinosaur, although was originally intended to look like something else.
Alex Pollard and Neil Mulholland
Alex Pollard was born in Brighton and lives and works in Glasgow. Recent solo shows include: ‘See-Through Mask’‚ Sorcha Dallas (off-site project), May 2004 and Basel Art Fair Statement, June 2004. A recent prizewinner at The John Moore’s Painting Prize 2004 he was included in ‘Aperto Scotland’ at the Prague Biennale 2003 and was selected for East International, Norwich in 2003. Pollard is one of the four selected artists who represented Scotland at The Venice Biennale 2005. Forthcoming shows include: solo show, Sorcha Dallas Gallery, Glasgow, 2006, ‘Krakt Aktars’, two person show, Goddard de Fiddes, Perth, Australia, 2006,Group show curated by Marc Foxx, Luhring Augustine, New York, January 2007.
Alex Pollard is represented by Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow
Disintergrating Hand and Other Works