22 June, 2016
Sitting somewhere between painting, sculpture and archive, Bex Massey’s work examines the role of painting and the language of display in the face of popular culture. Through the amalgamation of sculptural form and simulacra she investigates notions of worth, both in terms of allegory; the phenomena of celebrity; the throw away nature of British popular culture and the undercurrent of anxiety drifting just below the surface of daily life.
From broadsheet headlines to Shakespearean prose-Massey’s portfolio has long focused on reinterpreting stories in a visual manner. This impetus towards narration is seen to greater extent in her latest series #mamconcurs which seeks to document, question and subvert women’s depiction in art history.
Her installations display and refashion paraphernalia appropriated from her adolescence in an ‘awkward couple’ of garish nostalgia and traditional making techniques. In so doing she enables the audience to independently manufacture their own personal histories through their associative memories to object and image.
How did you first get into what you do now?
My parents are both architects: When I wasn’t spending my formative years being dragged around sites or historical buildings of interest it was galleries and lots of them. I’d say that this and David Hockney initiated the artistic realisation. My dad showed me one of his books when I was seven and that was me sold.
Skip forward some years-through trompe l’oeil painting, shock tactic Media headlines and the cult of celebrity and you find a lot happier me playing with narratives.
I now make work which makes me smile. As if I’m not enjoying it-what is the point? That is why I collect 80s and 90s textures, I paint from an appropriated pallet of my childhood and I sculpt replicas of merch I wish I had had growing up in Thatcherite Newcastle. This nostalgic epoch also offers a degree of safety whilst world news presently documents this decade hitch hiking to hell in a hurry.
What is your favourite part of the creative process?
I am a big fan of all parts of the creative process. I get a geeky thrill in researching things that many find redundant (one day I will be a pub quiz champ); sketching scenarios and making maquettes is ALL the fun and appropriating materials is slightly addictive as I systematically happen upon new items for my wardrobe. My most favourite stage would however be the ‘actual’ making. This period is really playful as long as deadlines are not looming. Ideas are developed and binned in quick succession. All in the vain hope that as the final element is added to the construction each object looks as if it was only ever designed; manufactured; bought for said new purpose, which-given that I am using recognisable objects, with overtly understood functions-I do not always pull off (sometimes it harder than it looks to get the correct dinosaur to VHS ratio). When I do excel at magician of matter–there are few things better!
You have two exhibitions coming up in Bristol and Liverpool, in addition to those recently closed in London. What impact does curation have on your work and how does it inform future projects, if at all?
Curation doesn’t necessarily impact on my practice as I can forward installation notes with my work if I am unable to attend ‘a hang’. If I were asked or was applying for a reginal/oversees exhibition I may however be inclined to submit a smaller or less breakable piece if I were unable to deliver the work to the space personally. London shows that I can get a pal and a van to, or make on site: The skies the limit.
What would be your dream project?
Residency/duo show with David Hockney. I can but dream!
If you could have a coffee or cigarette with anybody alive, dead or fictional, who would it be?
The obvious ones for me would be Jennifer Saunders, David Hockney, and the Queen. I wrote part of my thesis about a figurative religion where they were all leading deities-visa vis Jim Shaw ‘O-ism’.
As I have been afforded the afterlife however, I must say Victoria Wood. I was devastated by her sudden, recent death.
I can remember exactly zero days that weren’t improved by her japes, and I think she had so much more of that joy to bring. She changed the comedy circuit to enable women to ‘be’ funny and in so doing paved the way for the wondrous French and Saunders. Also-what a babe: Creative, comedic and clever. She had the tri-factor that make good women great. Namely I just think she would have been a hoot!!
How do you see the future of images?
Accessible by copious screens.
Mostly found in clouds.
Bex Massey is a London based artist. See more of her work: www.bexmassey.com
All photographs by @nutwork