Facing up to Stuart’s grotesque identities

Mr Girard Pinter MKG exhibition by Stuart Southwell
Mr Girard Pinter MKG exhibition by Stuart Southwell

IF art is supposed to provoke, make people talk and leave a lasting impression, then new city artist Stuart Southwell’s current Grotesque Identities meets all the criteria, writes Sammy Jones.

GO!s eyes met with the work at Milton Keynes Gallery – Stuart is one of eight artists from this area being given space at the art hub this summer, in the show New Art MK.

And it was his Grotesque Identities, a photographic delivery mixing humour with a slight hint of comedy, that was an instant hit with us.

The Bletchley-born creative has taken inspiration for his project from the late writer Wolfgang Kayser who was a theorist on the grotesque.

But it was actually a quote from Wilson Yates that he used as a starting point for this project: ‘...we live in a world where coherent cultural and political centres create conditions whose faces wear grotesque masks and whose voices speak its words.

‘Conditions related to matters of order and chaos, to violence and forms of oppression, to sexuality and the body, to birth and death, to cynicism and madness, to apocalyptic despair and utopian visions – all visit us in grotesque forms, and, given their deep embeddedness in our cultural and psychic experiences, they shall remain a part of the human journey as they have from our beginnings.’

And Grotesque Identities is as powerful as it is engaging.

“What I am trying to say through the piece is that we all contribute to the ideals of modern society and through this have all become false and in turn representations of the grotesque,” Stuart explains.

“I hope it hits a nerve with everyone.”

Stuart doesn’t just plan out the characters, some of whom you see before you – he is the man posing them too.

“It was always my intention to pose every character,” he said.

“The project is exploring identity and my personal feelings on how we all construct different identities for different situations throughout life.

“I felt it imperative that I was every character, enabling the viewer to wake up and understand our physical appearance is not what makes us who we are.”

The good news for those who, like us, have been struck by the dark side of Stuart’s deliveries?

This thing is going to run and run...

“The project is never ending.

“It is just like a normal family and will continue until the day I die!” Stuart added.

As part of the New Art MK exhibition and in conjunction with Independent Cinema MK, contributing artists have each selected a film to feature in the Friday Night Film club, which runs weekly at the venue.

Stuart has picked the David Lynch-directed classic Eraserhead, which will air on September 2.

Tickets are £5 and £3.

To book your space, call MK 676900.