From Queer to Eternity
Paul Harfleet; "Matchstick Gallows" ; 4000 matchsticks, Noose (Photo Lee Baxter)
‘From Queer to Eternity' brings together David Hoyle’s De Profundis and Paul Harfleets’ Pansy Project, working as two disparate artists whose paths have crossed intermittently over the last twenty years in various contexts from Manchester bars and night clubs to theatre venues and the festival circuit. Harfleet and Hoyle are neighbours who pop by for the occasional cup of tea. They are friends who occasionally write, they are perhaps distant brothers who have lost touch. But remotely they have a fondness for each other and the way the other works, fundamentally however they both have a shared interest and engagement with the politics of gayness and its peculiar position in contemporary society. Each were born of a North West art school, both have courted drag / androgynous personas and both have engaged with political activism. These similarities however have created vastly different aesthetics and methodologies, which this show endeavours to explore and elaborate on.
(Above David Hoyle; Photo Lee Baxter) In 2000 David Hoyle took to his blades at the Streatham Ice Arena and spectacularly killed off the Divine David. The persona he had created a decade earlier had established a unique position in queer cultural life, a sort of anti-drag act caustically lamenting the narcissism of the gay mainstream – ‘the biggest suicide cult in history’ – through song, dance, painting and whatever else took his fancy. In many ways he was an idealistic, even visionary, creation, although the constructive element to his diatribes wasn’t always the focus of the response. David Hoyle’s performance ‘SOS’ is more autobiographical and has been shown at the Soho Theatre, Royal Exchange and Sydney Opera House. His debut feature film released in 2010 ‘Uncle David’ has won numerous awards. For this exhibition David Hoyle’s De Profundis shows a selection of his ‘paintings from the edge’, the externalization of inner torment. The paintings explore the necessity of love in a psychopathic world.
"Seth" ; Model Tree, Golden Noose (photo Lee Baxter)
For this exhibition a single photograph of a planted pansy (part of the artist’s ongoing Pansy Project) marking political homophobia operates as the starting point for research, which has informed wider exploration resulting in the visual representation of masculinity and punishment. The widely reproduced images of the public hanging of Mahmoud Asqari and Ayad Marhouni in 2005 in Iran have become an iconic symbol of the Middle-East's stance on homosexuality. The selection of images and objects placed here represent a visual narrative of capital punishment and culturally sanctioned homophobia from public execution to bullying. ‘Artist as a Boy’; subtly augmented transgresses the already troubling image of this half naked boy (Paul Harfleet as a child) and addresses the origination of the artist’s interest in homophobia.
Paul Harfleet "The Cranes" ; Model Cranes
Trucks and cranes initially banal and associated with childhood and masculinity here represent the modern Iranian use of them for public hanging. ‘A history of gallows’ through model making and drawing subverts the usual reading of hobby and invites contemplation of culturally sanctioned execution. ‘Matchstick Gallows’ is a scale model of a gallows made from four thousand matchsticks; matchstick model making originated as a pastime for criminals, in creating a model of a apparatus for execution the artist invites contemplation on the nature of crime and punishment. The selection of apparently innocuous model cranes is in fact a carefully sourced collection of model/toy cranes designed to promote brands which continue to supply Iran with the cranes that are used for public hangings for a range of ‘crimes’ from homosexuality to adultery.
Paul Harfleet is a London based artist who devised The Pansy Project in Manchester six years ago. Since then The Pansy Project has featured in many queer festivals across Britain and beyond. Last year The Pansy Project Garden won a Gold Medal at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and will be launching his collaboration with Tatty Devine in September 2011.
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