This summer Castlefield Gallery will present a new body of work by Manchester-based painter Lindsey Bull, alongside a new mixed media installation and performance by London-based collective Plastique Fantastique.
Plastique Fantastique probe into politics, the sacred, popular and mass culture, generating comics, texts, shrines and assemblages. These are accompanied by performances that summon bitcoin fairies and high frequency traders, overwhelming the spectator’s senses with sound, video, diagrams and costume. Envisaged as a group of human and inhuman avatars, they deliver messages from the extreme past and the future. They are invested in myth making, or what they term ‘myth-science’ – producing alternative fictions to the ones that dominate society.
Usually alone or in small groups, the figures in Bull’s paintings are also outside of mainstream culture. Uncanny and untimely, they are difficult to place in the past, present or future. Her source imagery comes from witchcraft journals, fashion magazines, books on rituals and religions. The texture of Bull’s painting is built from a mixture of light, delicate marks and rich, thick strokes; at times surprisingly wide brush marks softly and exactly depict her subject matter. In places, bright white patches of primed canvas remain untouched, shining like brilliant light. There is something mystical and esoteric about the relationship between these figures and their environments. They are caught in a moment, either contemplating or absorbed in some undisclosed activity. In Bull’s recent works these figures are surrounded by luscious untended foliage that seems at odds with their fashionable outfits. Whatever drew them to these secluded places – a woodland party, photoshoot or something more devilish – they are mysteriously calm about being discovered there. If returned at all, our gaze is met with cool indifference. These characters exude an introverted confidence, leaving us seduced towards a world we don’t yet understand.
Originally conceived by Simon O’Sullivan and David Burrows, the list of individuals that make up Plastique Fantastique changes dependent upon the context. This exhibition sees them working with regular collaborators Alex Marzeta and Vanessa Page to develop a new work that references twins and doubles, a theme prevalent in Bull’s work. The twins that appear in Bull’s paintings are naturally similar in appearance but more importantly they share a potent mental connection. For Bull, mark making and the manipulation of paint is a way of transferring meaning, exploiting its materiality to create a psychological presence within her work.
For Plastique Fantastique the twin is a trickster double, a mirrored traitor with revolutionary potential. In their new work for Castlefield Gallery, the collective will draw upon the character of the The Hanged Man who appears in Tarot cards, curiously serene despite being hung upside down by one leg. The image originates from caricatures created to shame traitors, thieves and the bankrupt in Renaissance Italy. To mark the opening of the exhibition (6pm Thu 22 Jun 17) a ritual, a kind of séance, will be performed around this character in an attempt to invoke the agency of a digital spirit – an algorithm, computer virus or whistle-blower, a revolutionary traitor symptomatic of our time.
In different ways these artists see the potential in offering alternative fictions. Crucially both Bull and Plastique Fantastique perform this ‘fictioning’ as a lived practice. Developing a ‘myth-science’ needed now, perhaps more than ever, to offer different narratives that promise the possibility of another world or a different way of life.
Lindsey Bull has had solo exhibitions at: Yellow, Varese, Italy (2015); High House, Oxford, UK (2013); Motorcade/Flashparade, Bristol, UK (2012); Transition Gallery, London, UK (2012). Group exhibitions include: British Contemporary Painting Prize The Riverside Gallery, Richmond Museum, London and Huddersfield Art Gallery, UK (2016); Centre d’art contemporain de Quimper, France (2014); Fullersta Bio Konsthall, Sweden (2013); Transition Gallery, London; Gallery North, Newcastle; Hey hey hey, Beijing, China (2010). She is a Liverpool Biennial Associate Artist and has been paired with Mónica Espinel (Independent Curator based in New York, USA). She received a grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation (2017). lindseybull.com
Plastique Fantastique is a collaboration between David Burrows, Simon O’Sullivan, Alex Marzeta and Vanessa Page (previous collaborators include Harriet Skully, Ana Benlloch, Stuart Tait, Mark Jackson, Tom Clark, Simon Davenport, Joe Murray, Lawrence Leaman, Samudradaka and Aryapala). They have recently exhibited at Peacock Arts, Aberdeen, UK (2016); Dilston Grove, London, UK, (2016); Mega Stores Mall, The Hague, Netherlands (2016); ICA, London, UK (2015); ‘Curbitt’ festival, Mount Saleve, Geneva, Switzerland (2015); Grand Union, Birmingham, UK (2013).plastiquefantastique.org
Plastique Fantastique are represented by IMT Gallery, London www.imagemusictext.com