Who are you guys?
2006 bull calendar staffordshire terrier wall
Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present ‘Video’, Eddie Peake’s first UK regional solo exhibition, which is divided between the organisation’s main space and project room through site-specific material indicative of the artist’s burgeoning practice. New work includes a large sprayed wall painting, a marble sculpture of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and an invented structural form redolent of a Modernist zoo enclosure in the manner of Berthold Lubetkin’s Tecton buildings of the 1930s. The latter work is inhabited by a life-size giraffe and a moving-image work shot in the empty gallery space.
If Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a contentious reputation in the British psyche for being fierce and aggressive, in Essex they are known affectionately as ‘nursery dogs’ for their ability to guard young children. Their warmth towards people (it’s been said that ‘no breed is more loving with its family’), combined with their natural astuteness, could be seen to reconfigure preconceptions of intelligence, within the context of Southend-on-Sea, a town where ‘Staffies’
are the most commonly owned dog, an environment where loyalty and care pervades.
Water-cut from Michelangelo marble, Peake’s Staffie Innately Fluent (all works 2013) stands proudly with its eyes and mouth cut to the shape of Mediterranean Gulls in flight, another creature that appears en masse at the end of Southend Pier, and which has adopted Southend-on-Sea and the surrounding Thames Estuary as its home. The dog’s mouth glides straight towards the viewer, while each eye hurtles away from the other.
As a twin (Peake was born two minutes apart from his brother Lewis), the artist has a natural affinity with Chuka and Dubem Okonkwo, who grew up in the same area of north London as the artist. Peake has known Chuka and Dubem, The Islington Twins, since he was seventeen years old, and for this exhibition decided to present footage of both men positioned within Southend Central Library. In the work Tumult. featuring an HD video shot with a Canon 5D Mkii, the twins’ similarity to one another constitutes an analogy for the fidelity of reproductions of reality,
a characteristic which could be said to be typical of photography at large. They also appear to be a facsimile of one another, conjured by digital trickery, whilst in fact the video is an un-doctored truth.
Re-presentation, and an exchange of opposing, or even synchronic positions, is taken further and performed within the gallery in Peake’s examination of the ethos of Lubetkin’s early Modernist Tecton designs for Dudley, Whipsnade and London zoos. In the main gallery space, the artist has constructed an eight-foot high walled enclosure which shares an endeavour towards imposing a theatrical narrative on its inhabitants, in this case, the gallery’s spectators. This structure contains the aforementioned footage of the twins, and is peered into by the huge and slightly absurd model giraffe – the concept design for which was created by Peake’s twin Lewis – in a situation where an obvious reversal of spectatorship takes place between animal and human. In a wry but curious comment, any imposed theatricality enacts the opposite intention of Lubetkin; this is a situation
where the act of viewing is put on display.
However, Peake’s project is anything but a rumination on the perceived failure of Modernist architecture. Instead, it’s an elaborate puzzle or optimistic historical and ideological Russian doll that situates one form of Modernist architecture within another via a contemporary performative twist. When seen within the context of the soon-to-be-emptied Brutalist building that Focal Point Gallery and Southend Central Library currently occupy (both organisations will move to another structure in late 2013), Peake’s project is akin to the endearing vision of Tecton which, much like the collection of animals in a zoo, or the archive of books in a library, somehow continues to survive against all external forces.
Eddie Peake was born in London in 1981, graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2006, and undertook a residency at the British School at Rome from 2008 to 2009. He is currently completing his Master’s degree at the Royal Academy Schools, London. Recent solo exhibitions include Mihai Nicodim Gallery, Los
Angeles (2011), Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome (2012), White Cube, Bermondsey (2013) and a two-man exhibition with Prem Sahib at Southard Reid, London (2012). Performances include those at The David Roberts Art Foundation (2012), The Tanks, Tate Modern in conjunction with the Chisenhale Gallery (2012), The Royal Academy of Arts (2012) and Cell Project Space (2012).
Focal Point Gallery would like to thank Agi and Sam, Phil Brown / Other People’s Sculpture, Thomas Clarke, Mark Couzens, Shaun Couzens, Theo Deboick, Susanna Greeves, Dai Jenkins / Art Builder Ltd. Gregory Lengyel, Kate Lepper, Chuka and Dubem Okonkwo, and Trickers for their support in realising this project.
For further information and images, please contact Laura Bowen, Focal Point Gallery Exhibition and Marketing Officer on 01702 534 108 / [email protected]
Eddie Peake ‘Video’ is generously supported by Arts Council England and Southend Borough Council.