Brian Griffiths’ solo show, Another End, was a recent outing from a flamboyant and consistent oeuvre. The show featured a group of large sculptures that dominated the gallery space and posed a distinct alternative to a current prevailing trend for small, slight-of-hand objects. Tunde Yeboah had three questions he wanted to ask…
TY: I couldn’t help seeing Another End as an antidote to a mode of sculpture (the small, language-based gesture) that seems prevalent now. It was exhilarating to see a show of big, colourful, cartoony sculptures. Do you see your work as a reaction against other contemporary art?
BG: I am not making work in reaction to a particular mode of sculpture, though what is happening in contemporary art internationally and sculpture in particular has an undeniable indirect influence. For me art is an inquiry – serious and often beautifully absurd. Like any investigation it becomes particular, it focuses a methodology. It is through this that work takes a specific form and position. So the form of late is big, colourful and I would say uses particular graphic devices and languages from the world, which is at odds to the plinth-bound mutterings in many galleries at present. This is fine, it is not what I do… but I empathise with the frustration on repeatedly viewing a formulaic art object. I want to be surprised – bemused – angered – entertained by an idiosyncratic work of art or show.
TY: Do you think of your work strictly as sculpture?
BG: The work is 3-dimensional and occupies for the most part floor space. Many of the materials and processes are traditionally sculptural or nod emphatically towards sculptural historical precedents. In Another End at Vilma Gold there was the carved, the assisted readymade, the painted metal sculpture, the concrete monumental head… It is on one level an intentional run through the sculptural dressing up box. I have found myself more and more skillfully producing artworks that look like found objects and selecting found objects that appear artist-made. Is it sculpture? It does a very good job of pretending to be. Its disguise is cunning enough and has done it for so long that I now believe it. So I would say yes, without any doubt.
TY: There is a lot of colour in your work, but it’s all a bit dirty and cloudy. Why is that?
BG: The last show had a Pop sensibility – what you refer to as “cartoony”. Not an American Pop, but an English overcast Pop with the secure gloominess of British society – within which there is something aspirational and self-deprecating. For me, a key interest with ‘Kissing Again and Resting Again’, a sculpture using a wrecked banger car, was taking a familiar object that is put through numerous stages of transformation. Importantly, each stage is visible and evidences a systematic act of subtraction and addition. Banger racing is a cheap entertainment spectacle that gives permission for participants and spectators to experience and display joy in violence. For me it bluntly states a kind of absurd logic of society and hints at the messy business of being alive in a post-modern world. So what we end up with in the gallery is candy entertainment colours fucked over. ‘Kissing Again and Resting Again’ becomes pathetic, comical and oddly heroic, like a testosterone-fuelled clown car.