‘I feel it is essential for art to take on serious issues and to reflect our societies and the issues of the day’ – ArtAttack Interview Graeme Messer

ArtAttack first came upon artist Graeme Messer‘s work at this year’s The Other Art Fair in London. We were drawn in by his witty and unique mirror works made for the fair and knew instantly this was an artist we wanted to watch.

After requesting to interview him for this very blog, Graeme let us know about a special project close to his heart; We R is an upcoming art exhibition exploring the meaning of LGBT identity and celebrating difference. Launching during Pride Week London, the show at Espacio Gallery will include nineteen artists from all different cultures and nationalities contributing to a really authentic representation of the diversity and fullness of the LGBT community.

The goal is to to reach out to the many people who find it difficult to be their true selves and to challenge viewers to believe and remember that being different is an inalienable right.

In the words of exhibition curators, Bettina Stuurman and Joao Trindade, ‘We always talk about equality and whilst it may be important to have have the same rights, we really wanted to show how you must celebrate difference. We are proud of this collection which reminds us to think about the present representation of the LGBT community. We want people to leave the exhibition feeling positive, excited and remembering their own unique nature – and this is what we hope the art has captured.’

We decided to chat with Graeme about We R as a preview for our readers to this sure-to-be powerful and moving exhibition.

ArtAttack: You are a part of the upcoming group exhibition We R, exploring today’s meaning of the LGBT spirit and celebrating diversity. I am always greatly inspired by exhibitions that really strive to mean something beyond just the art, do you feel the same way when creating art for such an important cause? What does making this kind of art mean to you?

Graeme Messer: It is great to be able to make work about a really important subject and to have the chance of investigating and exploring areas you wouldn’t usually be exploring in such depth. I feel it is essential for art to take on serious issues and to reflect our societies and the issues of the day. Having an exhibition that looks at attitudes to the LGBTQI community in our world today is really important and this promises to be a really diverse and challenging exhibition. By the looks of things, the exhibition will also reflect the beauty, fun and fabulous side of our LGBTQI world.

AA: Your piece for the show is entitled ‘The Dark Room’ and incorporates assemblage, mirrors, photography and performance to explore contrasting attitudes to the LGBT world. Can you tell us a bit more about this work?

GM: ‘The Dark Room’ focuses on homophobia and hatred of the LGBTQI community – I wanted to explore the psychologically dark mindset that this type of hatred exists in. It has been a real eye opener researching this piece and it is truly shocking how much hatred and aggression there is still out there. My aim is to take the visitor on a disturbing and frightening journey into what could be called “the heart of darkness”. I have created an installation in a small dark room in the gallery where I am exploring characters such as Robert Mugabe, Vladimir Putin, Tyson Fury and the gay hating reggae singer Buju Banton. I am keen not just to represent these figures but to also make them as ridiculous and frightened as they really are.

Robert Mugabe.jpeg
Robert Mugabe, Courtesy of the Artist
Tyson Fury.jpeg
Tyson Fury, Courtesy of the Artist

AA: You do some performance work as part of your ‘The Dark Room’ piece, can you tell us a bit more about this? Do you often incorporate performance into your work or is this the first time?

GM: I have often used performance as part of my practice and it is great to be able to explore subject matters in different disciplines. The performances for ‘The Dark Room’ will be taking place on the opening and closing nights of the exhibition, and in it I work with photographs of Mugabe, Putin and Tyson Fury – cutting and tearing the photos so that they become masks that I wear and speak through. There is a brilliant soundtrack that has been specially commissioned by the talented musician Oyvind Aamli. The performance compliments the experience of visiting the installation and puts a comic spin on the whole experience.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 16.48.22.jpeg
Graeme Messer rehearsing his performance, Courtesy of the Artist

AA: Have you seen any of the work by other artists in the exhibition? If so, can you point us toward any favorites we should look out for?

GM: There is a real diversity of work in We R and it looks like it will be a really rich and exciting mix. The curator Bettina Stuurman does beautiful abstract paintings and I am really excited to see what she does for this show. Gianluca Pisano has done a wonderfully surreal painting of a Franciscan monk with the freedom flag and there will also be some great photography on show. I am particularly looking forward to seeing Brigitte Boldy’s photos dealing with homophobic attacks and the opposition to this. There are really too many great artists to list them all so I urge you to come along and see the show for yourself.

– India Irving

We R will be on view at Espacio Gallery from 21 June – 3 July, 26; Opening Event 22 June from 6 – 9pm with performances by Graeme Messer; Closing Event 2nd July from 6 – 9pm with performances by Graeme Messer; 159 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 7DG
Open Tuesday-Saturday 1-7pm, Sunday 1-5pm; Admission: FREE

For more on We Rhttp://werpride16.weebly.com

 

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