Carrion- An Exhibition by Gregor Laird and Sarah Greene

July 8- August 1 2011

Axolotl Gallery, 35 Dundas Street , Edinburgh


This exhibition by Gregor Laird and Sarah Greene runs at The Axolotl Gallery in Dundas Street until August 1 and this is unfortunate in itself as it does deserve to be seen by a larger audience that the Festival, which starts four days later, would guarantee. For those who are able to catch it then I strongly recommend that you do as it is an exhibition that houses dark themes and poptastic iconography but manages to deliver what it promises on the eloquent essay that accompanies it. It is also very much a show of two halves with Laird’s section garnering more attention due to the familiarity and controversy that surrounds the main subject matter the late self-proclaimed ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson. As usual the disproportionate fanaticism that his followers attribute their idol outweighs reason and many are horrified by Laird’s interpretations of their ‘Messiah’.  However as most of his followers believe that if Jackson had kicked a puppy the puppy would have been in some way asking for it perhaps it is best to ignore their complaints and humour bypasses and let the work speak for itself.

As mentioned before it is an exhibition of two halves and although on initial inspection there is little to connect the two halves a closer look reveals that they both deal with themes of darkness and both are shot through with a sense of irony and humour. Greene’s paintings feature heavily on eyeballs which seem to follow you around the gallery with a knowing, deeply disturbing haughty disdain daring you to look away. There were many facets of Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon to these works and this is in no way a bad thing. Sometimes however the framing of the pieces detracted from the actual work within. One particularly compelling and detailed figurative study was housed in a frame that swamped the piece and much of its appeal was lost. In other pieces the incongruity of the framing alongside the art created a jarring image which probably served the artists purposes perfectly. However if proper attention is paid then the skill and depth within these works can be clearly observed. What the collection fails to achieve though is any sense of cohesion that draws the whole thing together.

No such accusations can be levelled at Laird’s works however as his pieces draw together very well and seem to carry a narrative thread that the artist has developed from somewhere within his own mind frame and the collection is all the better for it. The bulk of the work centres on Jackson’s death and the different ways the media caused and reacted to it. We are therefore given Michael on a cross- his own delusional messianic beliefs at the Brits when Jarvis Cocker flashed his arse at him being mocked perhaps- , Michael in Elizabeth 1 ruffs and chalk white death mask and Michael’s skull held up for scrutiny or perhaps autopsy. Cleverly titled pieces like ‘Too Bad’ and ‘ Burger King of Pop’ only serve to confirm Laird’s macabre sense of humour. What becomes apparent is that it is not Jackson that is important but the relationship between celebrity, the public and media interpretation of it. During the course of the show the untimely death of Amy Winehouse occurred and although her legacy does not loom as large as Jackson’s the circumstances vary little. Heavy drug use and constant physical change until the inner grotesque emerges are the two obvious connections here. Not all Laird’s work features Jackson however and the other detailed studies of birds have their own appeal that simultaneously set them apart whilst still remaining part of the same vision. What is not so apparent is the humour that is shot through the work, a dark, macabre humour perhaps but humour nonetheless.

So Carrion is therefore an exhibition of interesting ideologies translated through the introspective minds of its two creators and one that deserves to be seen and the Axolotl gallery is the perfect venue to house it. It is a gallery that contains a space to let its exhibits breathe and assume a life of their own. And unlike Jackson who ultimately never had a life of his own this collection of work certainly does.

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