Tess Wood’s practice aims to express and further deepen her own understanding of human interaction and social control, presenting performances to her audience in an attempt to offer them an opportunity, to experience and contemplate feelings towards topics such as gender, sexuality, power and the moments of fear, love, passion and frustration that reside within these in the contemporary day.
Currently focusing on the underpinning of a collective frustration with social control, power structures and theories regarding the relationship of body to architectural public space. Within the last month her work has taken a more reflective sentiment relating the current lock down situation that we are experiencing to her time spent in Japan in 2017.
The images shared here are stills from three separate performances in which the artist uses her body to express personal emotional and physical frustration with the world. Using these landscapes and architectural spaces she utilises public and private spaces as a place where one can easily express themselves immediately. This series of performative actions is an ongoing project spanning the last five years.
It is a mechanism that drives me to create work. If I am told something is to be a certain way, that I must abide by a certain set of rules, I am wired, I am totally wired to understand why.
My work is an ongoing investigation into the loving vulnerability connected to the memory of a space and a place. Through using materials such as LED Lights, old television monitors and oil paint, I explore themes of domesticity such as universally recognised objects and symbols of familiarity. For example, recreating the familiar patterns of windows or carpets spanning from universally significant architectural designs such as the Vatican to a Swansea student household. For me, my work is an investigation into the potential of using perception as a material, through manipulating light as a method of triggering memory. Challenging “How close memory feels to trespass” – Edward DeWall.
This collection of ink drawings was done in response to the current Covid-19 crisis as a documentation of personal and shared experiences in this challenging time.
Jeremy Gluck mainly works with contemporary strategies. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, Gluck creates work in which a fascination with the clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal art often collides with ambiguity and concealment. The work is aloof and systematic and a cool and neutral imagery is used, obscuring a subtext speaking to process as practice.
Anja Stenina‘s show ‘You Know What I Mean‘, appealing to the intellect but also evading it, is apparently cerebral. Posing many questions beyond its name, the show embodies a fundamental challenge: You Know What You Are? The latest expression of a body of work that is as engaging as it is deceptively elusive, its theatrical and performance elements are grounded in an earthy and even sometimes matriarchal matrix, feeding back life, love and an arch wisdom and insight into the human condition.
Stenina’s work, by turns literate, literal and articulated in popular tropes, in this case is cast in a low, blue light to emphasise its marine themes, and employing the renowned sea shanty, What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor, as a platform for undermining and investigating assumptive perspectives. You Know What I Mean is, literally and figuratively, a delightful, compassionate and enlightened collision of ideas, light and Jungian shadows.
Anja, interviewed here, supplies context to what is a growing body of work deserving reflection.
GS Artists: Question one: What is question zero?
Anja Stenina: ‘What should we do with a drunken sailor?’ questioning the influence of the authority of collective judgement. The fundamental conceptual question is: how in control are you? It is a progression of my work in a wider sense that explores our relationship with society. That traces back to my BA Degree exhibition in 2016 ‘Are you in control?’, where I explored how power structures manipulate us quite blatantly just below the superficial skin of our everyday lives. In the installation I would draw out the stage directions to life on the floor, but using invisible ink which could then be discovered, piece by piece, by the audience using black light torches. I also wanted to present the physical metaphor of the whole process – that the audience is surrendering themselves to my authority when they come in, yet they are still entirely in control of their lives – they always have a choice – they can turn the torch off at any point, or simply choose to stop following the instructions.
The revision within the Drunken Sailor song is an exploration between different standpoints. It specifically raises questions of judgement and morality, how opinions are arrived at and how often do people actually consider where their opinions are coming from. The idea connects to Barthes’ idea of the encratic language of authority and to what goes without saying.
I employ a dialectical approach to create a reflective environment for the observation of shifts of perspective. I’m not passing judgement; I am just creating a space for the unpacking of ideas, locating elements of control.
GS Artists: What are the chief elements of control?
Anja Stenina: Fashion and style. The style of social protocols and social rituals that are dictated by the dominant culture. With the metaphysical personifications of the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces, I am presenting two fashions, two standpoints. The viewer, therefore, is free to try on each of the ideological perspectives. My show is, basically, a changing room.
GS Artists: And in that room, what changes?
Anja Stenina: Who knows? It’s a private space.
I would only hope that the fitting helps one to engage critically with the dynamic between opposing standpoints and that the naturalness/comfiness of a certain garment aka certain established social construction is reflected back to the visitor and perhaps the dominance of one style is questioned by the alterations of the new style. Dominant trends/positions can be switched to more transgressive standpoints. I’ve presented opposing cultural constructions for the individual to try on and I hope that, as with the dressing room mirrors, the reflective experience of the self ‘wearing’ the different forms can influence one’s value judgments.
My work creates a potential space for change, it is the viewer’s reflections in the dressing room that complete it.
GS Artists: What is this “self”?
Anja Stenina: The knower; the chooser of the outfits; the one that catches the reflection.
GS Artists: In the simplest language, starved of any elaboration, what is your practice and what is your art? Is it necessary?
Anja Stenina: I am a poststructuralist and semiotician in my process and I am a conceptual mixed media installation artist. I work with elements of morality. Is morality necessary? Necessity is a question for the critics.
Welsh film star Michael Sheen has been handed a new role – as the subject for more than 100 Swansea portraits.
The resulting 140-plus images of Port Talbot-raised Sheen went on show in GS Artists Gallery on High Street, Swansea.
Pictures were submitted from a range of exhibitors from schools, colleges, support groups and adult learning groups.
Organisers of the 9to90 Creative Community Exhibition were GS Artists working with the Fusion Programme, a Welsh Government-funded initiative managed in the city by Swansea Council’s cultural services team.
Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “The Michael Sheen part of this wonderful community exhibition really captured the imagination of artists from right around Swansea, from a rich diversity of backgrounds.
“It was lovely of Michael to give his backing to the project – and his parents joined artists and supporters at a celebratory event. “I’m told they were fascinated by the portraits of their son!”
The actor, filming in America, tweeted: “Wish I could have been there for it. My mum and dad surrounded by over 140 images of me! The art was phenomenal across the board. Congratulations to everyone involved.”
The 9to90 Creative Community Exhibition is in its second year.
It offers everyone the chance to exhibit their work in an art gallery regardless of age, style and experience.
This year’s activity attracted 279 entries, including crafts, photography, painting and drawings, poetry and prose..
This year’s portrait category was dedicated to Sheen due to him being celebrated for his philanthropy in the South Wales arts scene and his support for the Homeless World Cup.
Jane Simpson of GS Artists, said: “Fusion gave us the challenge of creating a project that could open the doors of our gallery to reach the wider community, and the 9to90 creative community concept was born!
An open submission show open to all, which was free to enter and was advertised widely. We added categories to respond to interest such as prose & poetry. Portraits are a fantastic challenge for all, and especially if the subject is loved as much as Michael, I’m already being asked who’s next!
Over the last few months the gallery has worked voluntarily with Fusion who’ve enabled us to take the idea to a wider community by funding free creative opportunities. These workshops partnered with local artists and creatives and allowed more than 80 people, literally 9to90, to create works almost all of which were entered into the show.
Our ongoing partnership is dedicated to supporting creativity and artistic opportunities for a diverse audience.”
The exhibition ran from December 7th to December 13th.
Supporters included Crisis Swansea, Cover to Cover, Dylan’s Book Bus, Cinema and Co, Sew Swansea, Coastal Housing, independent artists, Gower College, UWTSD, St Helen’s Primary School, Gowerton Primary School, St Thomas Community School, Ffynone House School and local councillors from Castle ward.
GS Artists were collaborators with our landlords, Coastal Housing, on bringing what we termed, “Secret Street Art” to Wales. We created a series of secret messages around the Ynys Lee Estate near Port Talbot, that only appear when it rains. Read on:
New artwork can only be seen when it rains
South Wales Evening Post 08/11/19
It’s not often people hope for it to rain, particularly during the half-term holidays but that’s exactly what happened recently during Wales’s first Rainworks art installation in Cwmavon.
Organised by Coastal Housing with project collaborators GS Artists, families living in Ynys Lee came together early in the week to design stencils around the theme of why Ynys Lee is such a great place to live.
With the support of professional artists, these stencils were used to treat the ground with Rainworks Invisible Spray producing Rainworks – secret works of art that can only be seen when it rains. The Rainworks concept, based around an environmentally-friendly spray, was invented in Seattle as a way to bring smiles to people’s faces even when it rains.
The installation in Cwmavon is the first time a Rainwork has been created in Wales.
Cayleigh Ward has lived at Ynys Lee for around 15 years and created a secret message encouraging people to ‘Be More Ynys Lee’. She added: “Ynys Lee’s awesome. Everybody loves Ynys Lee.
“There’s a big community up here. Everybody knows each other and everybody helps each other.”
The Rainworks installation was the brainwave of Coastal’s health and wellbeing manager Sarah Davies who read about Rainworks goal of giving people a reason to smile when it rains in its native Seattle.
She added: “Seattle is often nicknamed Rainy City, so the parallel to South Wales was obvious. I wondered how we could celebrate communities across rainy South Wales and approached people in Ynys Lee to be the first installation.
“At Coastal we’ve got a culture of innovation so it’s fitting that we’re doing the first installation in Wales.”
Jane Simpson of GS Artists devised the art workshops that helped local people turn their ideas into secret street art. She said: “‘We couldn’t have come to a better place, what lovely people that clearly love living at Ynys Lee And some very secretly creative people.”
GS Artists is proud to present our new group exhibition “There is a politics of space as space is politics”. Continuing our Activism Autumn season, this time our attention focusing on more established artists and their political comments in art form. The artworks will include the film ‘Election Abstract‘ by Cornelia Parker that she created as the official artist of the last election, yes that one.
Craig Wood’s piece Empire consists of acrylic paint carefully applied to a map of the world to reveal the British Overseas Territories. These modest landmasses are the remains of the British Empire and are indicative of the true power that the uk wields in our contemporary world.
Gary Hume’s Barn Doors and Walls are a series of twenty seven works on paper in oil stick and pencil on paper, depicting the entry points and supporting barriers of the American Dream. Barn raising is celebrated in the US as a collective, community action and the traditional red colour come from the beneficial use of ferrous oxides (to reduce fungal growth and increase retained heat) in what was newly available cheap commercial paint. This colour has now become emblematic. In these works, Hume eschews his usual care in handling his medium. Smudges and bleeding oil seeps cross the lines; finger marks are left on the paper. The works are unsettled and raw.
In Fire Water, 2019, Gavin Turk’s work is a constant rediscovering of objects and symbols. The questioning of value, originality and authenticity is the artists process of understanding the real. The work within this show is an assisted ready-made, where a piece of gold foil, a crumpled chocolate wrapper is inserted into an empty water bottle, creating an agitprop Molotov cocktail. The title ‘Fire Water’ suggests a strong alcoholic drink that burns the throat.
Fiona Banner, in a recent collaboration with the Archive of Modern Conflict, commissioned a Magnum photographer to take pictures of London’s financial district as if it was a war zone. The resulting work uses Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness as a filter through which to read the tribal behaviour of those in the business of finance, an environment of weary survivalism combining competitive trading floors, corporate art collections, manic drinking cultures, luxury shopping and strip clubs. Also exhibited are the latest of her works demonstrating a long-standing fascination with the emblem of fighter aircraft and their role within culture, this time printed onto 5 metre pure silk banners, that float and move within the space.
Jamie Reid, infamously and eternally connected with the Sex Pistols and the DIY ethic of punk, Reid grew up in suburban Croydon. After a stint as a semi- professional footballer and gardener Reid honed his ability to communicate directly with a scalpel, glue and a xerox machine in the 70’s. Throughout his career Reid has continued his involvement with important protest movements – No Clause 28, Greenpeace, for the Anti-Poll Tax Alliance, against the Criminal Justice Bill, against English Heritage, Occupy, Pussy Riot and most recently Extinction Rebellion. We are presenting some small agit prop pieces, alongside this new, stunning and direct work concerned with a certain global fast food.
Election Abstract (stills above and below) is an animation of over a thousand original photographs and videos that were posted on Cornelia Parker’s Instagram feed (Electionartist2017) as a personal diary of the election trail and its aftermath. It charts the seemingly forgone conclusion of a Conservative win, the rise and fall of Theresa May and the growing cult of Corbyn. It records travels to various UK cities on the campaign trail, in pursuit of party manifesto launches, debates and public demonstrations. Sometimes Parker acted as part of the press pack, but often worked as a lone observer.
Over the period captured there were multiple terrorist attacks; Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Finsbury Park Mosque and immediately after the election, the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. The never-ending news cycle is intercut with pressing issues and anxieties expressed by the public and witnessed by the artist. Commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, chaired by Alison McGovern MP
Exhibtion Launch and Talk and Lunch.
On Saturday 16th November at noon, an in-conversation & launch of the new exhibition took place at Galerie Simpson Artists.
The day commenced with lunch, followed by Gavin Turk (artist and activist) in discussion with Debbie Rees (artist, grower, activist, XR Cymru), Ella Southwell (artist & XR Cymru) John Marchant (gallerist and XR member), Owen Griffiths (artist, workshop leader and curator) , Jane Simpson (artist & GS Artists Director).
We looked at the last 9 months of XR actions and its relationship with the art world. Has XR had any affect on the way artists are working /wish to work? What changes do we have to make? We will start our journey with Gavin Turk being arrested on Westminster Bridge in April, to Gary Hume’s request to the National Portrait Gallery to remove BP as a sponsor, to now and most importantly to the future. We will talk about the highs and lows of the XR campaign and the central role of art and artists have and must play.
Images courtesy of exhibiting artists. Gallery below by Scott Mackenzie.
Download the full Craig Wood In Conversation with Fiona Banner PDF here.
Following is a section of one of the studio conversations recorded by the artists and transcribed at their discretion. The venue was Bethel Chapel (Craig’s studio) on April the 7th, 2019.
Craig Wood These are these early polythene water pieces that I made.
Banner Oh yeah, you were talking about them.
CW Which kind of put me into the installation world, using architecture as
the context. They mirrored the format of the floor.
FB Where is that?
CW That’s in the crypt of
St. George’s Church in
FB Wow! That was way before you had the chapel?
CW Yeah. So, I’ve always had a
little bit of a sort of atheistic love of ecclesiastical buildings. That was a
sort of breakthrough piece, because from being an object-maker at college I
then used architecture as a context.
FB It’s very beautiful.
What is that material?
CW It’s just ordinary
wrapping polythene – like the stuff you
get poly bags made from. It’s very iconic.
FB But what have you done with it to make it solid?
CW I’ve heat-sealed it.
It’s full of water so it’s not solid, it’s liquid, with a stain in it.
FB How amazing! It looks beautiful.
CW And then I removed the stain, because I realised it was much more about
these two materials. A kind of so-called organic, so-called natural material…
like synthetic and non-synthetic.
CW That was Modern Medicine –
show after Freeze.
FB That was the big kind of BritArt… was that the thing that Damien
[Hirst] organised that was like the beginning of that whole scene?
CW Freeze preceded this, which kind of kicked it BritArt off; Modern
Medicine kind of consolidated it. This was in a biscuit factory (appropriately enough).
When I see this image, I think of the smell of custard creams, because that’s where they used to make custard creams. This
was now reduced to a kind of conversation between plastic and water. At the end
it was pumped out and the plastic was recycled. It’s kind of very ephemeral.
FB And that was part of your thinking around the piece from the top – that it would disappear back into its natural
state at the end?
CW Yeah. I think it was very much like, I was interested in the…
CW I was quite a conceptualist. I quite liked the political side of
conceptual art, that it was non-marketable – or at least difficult to market.
FB And to then reconstitute the materials at the end…
CW Yeah, you just return back: the water goes down the drain; the plastic
goes back to the company I bought it from, who could re-melt it and re-use it.
But I wasn’t like anti- the
other artists in the show. I was thinking they do what they do; I do what I do.
I wasn’t extremely militant about it,
that was just the way I was wanting work to be: ephemeral, site-specific.
FB But I think a lot of people use the word ‘ephemeral’ but they don’t go so far as to actually disappear the materials
back into their natural source at the end. So that’s a very strong narrative around the work, a very
strong attitude towards ephemerality. It’s beautiful. Could you walk on that?
CW No, no. It was really fragile. So it had a lot of contradictions to
what we think of as sculpture as well. Kind of more like ephemeral dressmaking
the way it was made, because it was more like a stitching process with heat
FB Did you make it yourself?
FB Wow! If you made that now would it mean something different?
CW Hmm… yeah, I think so. I
don’t think I really understood or
wanted to understand everything about it. At this stage it was still exciting
me as to, ‘Wow! I’m making this work. I don’t really know it, but I’m intrigued by it.’ I made maybe ten of these in different venues until I
realised it was sort of repeating itself. Then I just stopped forever. And each
time I made it I would kind of understand other aspects to it.
FB Would you remake it now if the right opportunity came up?
CW Part of me doesn’t want to.
FB Why? Because it’s a hassle?
CW Well, it’s a hassle that
kind of going back. But then having said that, we’ve just been at the Laugharne Weekend – musicians for example don’t have any problem about playing their old sixties
hits. And why not?
FB And what joy it is!
CW What joy it is. And why deny yourself that? I’ve always wanted to be going on and on, and move on
and on, sort of restlessly looking for new excitement in art. But maybe I’ve reached a point where I will recap.
FB Would be nice to see that. But I’m just thinking that now we’ve all got to think
about what an object means, what substance is, what material is, because the
planet’s sinking and, you know, there’s a next generation. So, it’s quite prescient work in that regard. And to
me, looking at it now, it speaks to some of those things. But those things were
obviously not on the agenda at the time for the common man.
CW They were around but they weren’t as mainstream as they are now (or should be now).
FB We didn’t realise about
global warming and stuff like that so much. Or did you?
CW Yeah, I did. Because I remember in Edinburgh being really interested in… when I was young being interested in what was
called the Ecology Party which was pre-Green Party. I remember when I was at
school discussing with my mates their policy of having zero economic growth and
thinking how exciting that was, and how you could make things better – that you could make better cars, better
everything, better jobs – but you wouldn’t be obsessed with the notion of constant
FB So it’s anti-capitalist
CW Yeah, there’s a lot of that in
it. Or at least a really serious desire to fundamentally reform capitalism.
FB What’s it called?
CW I was just about to say… I was just about to
come out with a Marxist quote. It’s not called anything;
they were all untitled.
FB Okay. What’s the Marxist quote?
CW I don’t know!
FB [Laughs] Add that one in later. Well it’s very exciting to see… I mean my god they’re beautiful!
CW They were sort of a really… they could burst like that. It was like
putting a pin next to a balloon, it was almost tempting its own demise.
FB Is it always moving as well in some way?
CW If you touched it you would have a ripple bouncing backwards and forwards
CW And so they’re cut to almost
the exact format of the slabs…
CW So the format of all these works are sort of determined by builders.
FB Yeah, who in turn are informed by the engineering…
CW Yeah, and the practicality of how much concrete you can cast…
FB How often you need a pillar…
CW How wide is the linoleum? – this little annoying cut.
FB So what are we looking at here? Because they are almost invisible these
CW This was a piece at Laure Genillard’s gallery on Foley Street.
FB I wondered if it was – I sort of
recognised that floor.
CW So it’s like three big
slabs with that one. Again using the format of the floor.
FB And does that create an impasse? Because it’s then an area that you can’t enter.
CW Exactly, yeah. Again this became much more of a sort of minimalist
work, whereas the other ones had much more sort of poetic and phenomenological interpretations, as
it became very cold in the gallery. I didn’t do many in galleries; I didn’t think they really worked. That was in Castello di
Rivara in Italy – thousands of
terracotta tiles going through this doorway into the back. You couldn’t get into these rooms – some secret rooms that you could only see through the
FB Really? So, you made the installation in rooms where it couldn’t really be seen?
CW Exactly. And it went through the whole floor of this castle. I put some
ladders against the walls so from the outside you could peer in.
FB Oh, how lovely! I guess invisibility/visibility is sort of embedded in
the project at large anyway. I mean water is this thing that is not…
CW I’ll move on a bit. I
used to work as an archaeological draughtsman, and in-between doing these
installations I would do archaeological drawings of everything I was throwing
out, every plastic object.
CW So that’s like a little
FB That’s very satisfying.
CW So it’s dot drawing.
These are lines of dots.
FB Is this a physical drawing made with pencil?
CW Yeah, with Rotring.
FB Oh my god, the beloved Rotring.
CW This was a little piece I dug up. All of this stuff’s really been dug up because I’ve been doing this publication. I haven’t looked at any of this for years. So this is a
piece I found that must have been a trowel. This is a Superdrug bleach bottle.
So these were based on archaeological and architectural drawings… both jobs.
FB How do you make the dots so uniform?
CW It’s almost like a
meditation… to get my breathing
right before I start.
FB My god! That’s incredible!
Because the spacing is so uniform as well.
CW I got better at it as well, actually.
FB Is this better? Is this not better?
CW No, no. I got to the point where I got ridiculously… What I tried to
do was to record something in the most caring way of an object that gets the
least care culturally, the thing that’s in the bin after one second.
FB Did you show these alongside the water installation?
CW No. They were kind of another body of work that I introduced later,
once I’d stopped the installations.
FB Quite cool that it’s actually going to
be seen alongside in the book, isn’t it?
CW Yeah, I know. It’s going to be incredible
FB Also, as I said before, I’m having to go back
and look at all this after me kind of shutting it out. ‘Next context, next project’, you know? So now in my mind it’s all sort of mixed up for the first time, because it’s all been dug out to be collated and cleaned
and classified and published. These are holes in
FB Now this work I have seen.
CW You might have seen that. This is Laure Genillard’s gallery. She’s down there. Remember that?
FB Yeah, I once had a drawing of a Chinook helicopter like there on that
CW Yeah. That was probably the first time I saw your…
FB It was folded up like a map. I remember delivering it and it was A4
size and Laure was like, ‘What the hell? I
thought you were bringing me a like A0 drawing?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am’, and unfolded it. That’s beautiful. So,
tell me about the number.
CW These are the
numbers… that’s probably the code
that’s on the bottom of one of
these bottles. It’s like
manufacturers’ code, manufacturers’ language, that we don’t know what it means. They do… some batch numbers.
It’s ubiquitous but it’s not our business to know, as it were.
FB That is quite scary in a way.
CW It is! And it’s kind of funny
that we’ve never challenged it or
enquired. I remember phoning up a few times to ask what these numbers meant and
was treated with massive suspicion. What does ‘UN-3H1’ mean? I still don’t know to this day.
FB What does it mean? What does it mean in
terms of the dent in the world and the contribution to the world? It’s highly relevant, but it’s all part of the invisible shit that we don’t look at or think about.
CW Yeah, sort of multinational stuff. And we’re probably putting these things on our bodies and in
our bodies. They’re very intimate
some of these products: cleaning things and deodorants, and air fresheners I
used a lot of.
FB Yeah, I remember that.
CW Isn’t it funny, you know, you mentioning that drawing and folding maps? And looking at your work yesterday at the Laugharne weekend and seeing sort of connections with things that I was doing at the same time. But at the time I thought everybody was completely different. But now looking back I see sort of Rachel Whiteread’s work or Marcus Taylor’s, and I think, ‘Oh yeah, we were all kind of very connected’.
FB There were concerns to that generation we weren’t aware of.
CW I didn’t see it at the
time. Yeah, I thought everybody was working in their own unique ways. It’s quite reassuring that, that things were
connected. But I didn’t see it at the
FB Yeah, it’s quite a privilege to be in it for long enough and to be able to look back and see that.
Craig Wood was born in Edinburgh in 1960 and has been based in South Wales since 1982, where he initially worked as a draughtsman for Dyfed Archaeological Trust.
He completed a Foundation Diploma at Dyfed College of Art,
Carmarthen before studying a Fine Art BA at Goldsmiths College, London, in the
Wood was a part of the initial Young British Artists generation, exhibiting in shows such as
Modern Medicine. His practice explores the spectrum of site specificity and
Wood has been a recipient of the DAAD residency in Berlin and is a former Gregory Fellow with the University of Leeds. He has exhibited widely within the UK and abroad.
Currently he has a fractional post as Senior Lecturer in
Conceptual Art at Swansea College of Art, UWTSD and continues to exhibit widely
both nationally and internationally.
Born 1966, Merseyside, England
Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press explores gender,
collections, and publishing through a practice spanning forms as varied as drawing,
sculpture, performance, and moving image. Her early work took the form of ‘wordscapes’
or ‘still films’ – blow-by-blow accounts written in her own words of feature
films, (whose subjects range from war to porn) or sequences of events. These
pieces evolved into solid single blocks of text, often the same shape and size
as a cinema screen.
Banner later turned her attention to the idea of the classic,
art-historical nude, observing a life model and transcribing the pose and form
in a similar vein to her earlier transcription of films. Often using parts of
military aircraft as the support for these descriptions, Banner juxtaposes the
brutal and the sensual, performing an almost complete cycle of intimacy and
alienation. Whilst her current work encompasses performance, sculpture, drawing
and installation, text is still at the heart of Banner’s practice. In 1997 she
started her own publishing imprint The Vanity Press, which has been the
backbone of her work ever since. Banner toys with the snobbery inherent in the
title by publishing posters, books, objects and performances that deploy a
playful attitude and utilise pseudo grandeur.
Banner came to prominence in the 1990s with her
wordscapes, written transcriptions of iconic films retold in her own words. THE
NAM (1997) is a 1,000 page book that details, scene-by-scene, six Vietnam
War films — including Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now — in such
a way that they blur into each other. The outcome is, in the artist’s
words, the literary equivalent of a “gutting 11 hour supermovie”.
In a recent collaboration with the Archive of Modern
Conflict, Banner commissioned a Magnum photographer to take pictures of
London’s financial district as if it was a war zone. The resulting work
uses Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness as a filter through
which to read the tribal behaviour of those in the business of finance, an
environment of weary survivalism combining competitive trading floors, corporate
art collections, manic drinking cultures, luxury shopping and strip clubs.