Angus Fairhurst - Arnolfini - 31st January - 29th March 2009
Angus Fairhurst tragically died in 2008. This exhibition is a commemoration of his work; a retrospective which covers the past fifteen years.
What is striking is the range of media he used, including the computer. What interests me, is how this body of work relates to the digital culture. It is only part of what informed Fairhurst's aesthetic, but it seems to be a significant part, particularly in the paintings Low, Lower and Lowest Expectations, the Body and Text Removed series, and the gorilla sculptures and suit.
Image manipulation, fantasy and space were obviously part of his concern, and he made paintings that were generative, using collage and the imagination. Part of the quality of paintings such as Schopfun and Epha is that they combine the virtual with the architectural, as well as the liminality of the outlines of models in magazines, suggesting the processes of photoshop and other software. The physical cutting into and manipulation of magazines is part of a process of reclaiming imaginative space.
Lacan is obviously important to an understanding of Fairhurst's work, in terms of absence stimulating the imagination and leading to creativity.  The absence of female figures in the Body and Text Removed series, images taken from advertising shoots, suggest the absence of the archetypal feminine, with only silhouettes remaining to conjure up an imaginary female presence, a symbolic female archetype purely from the viewer's imagination. The surrounding space, with remnants of hair, and the background, which is also curiously full of absence, a fictional tabula rasa in the 'photographer's studio', leads the viewer to appreciate this other symbolic space, which can only accentuate the absence of the figure, or figures. That the silhouettes are recognisable from the lexicon of advertising creates an irony, but the absence of body and text, the body of the text, can only lead to generative thought patterns, as well as the perception of the neuroses which lurk at the edges of these texts. These neuroses surround the portrayal of perfection, both in physical terms, as represented by the model, and product enjoyment, the fiction enhanced by symbolic displacement. These anxieties, which are only temporarily assuaged by this fiction, return to the consumer's mind and can only embody the absence of something - the product, naturally, but also a theft of archetypes of the imagination, the type of archetypes found in fairytale and myth. It is as though imaginative space is reclaimed by this act of removal, and impermanence and impossibility are celebrated at the same time.
In terms of photoshop, and compositing softwares, 'the body of the text' is usually the part of the image retained, composited with a fantasy background. Fairhurst was obviously intrigued by these processes, but interested simultaneously in liberating the viewer from these fantasy constructions, in a method of reversal and description of imaginative possibility.
In the Low, Lower and Lowest Expectations series, abstract images are generated on computer and then paintings were executed by sign writers. They resemble musical scores, and, as the series progresses, patterns are gradually overlaid to create a 'noise' effect. These images are displayed in the same room as a drum kit, which is there for anyone to play.
Also in this gallery is One Year Of The News (1st January - 31st December 2003), where Fairhurst collected the daily newspapers for a year, and colour photo-copied their front pages, repeating the process so that the layering of different papers generates a similar 'noise' effect to Lowest Expectations. (This work is indicative of The Media/Art Identity Crisis.)
The 'noise' of the popular is contrasted with the sculptures of gorillas and, importantly, the gorilla suit. The gorilla suit echoes the film Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment, where the main character, Morgan, dresses up in a gorilla suit to try and win his wife back. Morgan doesn't succeed, and in the process wakes up one morning by the side of a railway track, wearing his gorilla suit. It seems that Morgan has gone over the edge. " I came to a high wire fence. I climbed it, went down the other side and climbed into a skip. I rearranged all the rubble and found a plank of wood. I lay down on that, with a stone for a pillow. It was quite comfortable. I can pretend to be homeless, I thought, then I'll know what it feels like." 
Then of course there is the link with Konrad Zuse, who was a member of the King Kong club in 1930's Berlin. His friend Helmut Shreyer would dress up as King Kong, in a gorilla suit, and destroy a model of the Empire State Building as part of a nightly performance. Shreyer and Zuse collaborated together when Zuse was building the Z1, an important moment in computing history.
Amid technological powers, empowering the feminine side of culture as Sadie Plant has argued, the gorilla is a reminder of where we have come from, as well as questioning what we have become. In Fairhurst's work it is perhaps a symbol of his masculinity, displaced onto the sculptures and recurrent in the suit. In A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling 2, a gorilla is depicted who contemplates his missing arm. A tension exists between artifice and realism, the missing arm another absence, which reminds the viewer that this is an art object. It also might be a portrayal of the 'gorilla suit', and a representation of a displaced self. The gorilla is located as a side of himself, which like Morgan, he clearly felt it was necessary to portray.
 Introducing Lacan, Darian Leader
 Diamonds Behind My Eyes, Nicola Pagett
 The Making of the Micro, Christopher Evans
Victoria Halford & Steve Beard