Invites Focus: Guy Oliver

Invites Focus: Guy Oliver
Guy Oliver, And You Thought I Was Bad?, 2018 (still)
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Ahead of the imminent release of our new publication Invites Vol.2, marking 50 Invites exhibitions since the series began in 2012, we’re delighted to share some exclusive material from our archives and from the artists. Each fortnight we will be focussing on one Invites alumni, giving access to interviews, installation views, and links to recent and upcoming projects. Also check out the Zabludowicz Collection Instagram for some gems from artists’ back-catalogues and some behind-the-scenes work in progress.

Invite Focus: Guy Oliver, 20 April
–3 May 2020

Guy Oliver has been exploring the relationship between comedy and tragedy within contemporary popular culture for over a decade.

We are happy to be able to give you some behind the scenes insight into his new work You Know Nothing of My Work, 2020 commissioned as a result of the Jerwood/FVU Awards 2020 and currently awaiting its preview at Jerwood (postponed from March 2020 for obvious reasons). Scroll down for some behind the scenes photos from the “making of” this new film as well as images of a sculptural work in progress featuring some wonky cows and iconic graffiti. He has also made a special edition which he is selling via Instagram as part of the #artistsupportpledge.

Other exclusive materials you can enjoy this fortnight by Guy include the chance to watch Songs Of Eternal Praise (2016/17) from the artist website from 20–27 April and from 27 April–3 May check out one of his earliest works: Warriors Don’t Cry (yrC t’noD sroirraW), 2007 on our website.

His Invites exhibition: And You Thought I Was Bad? took place between 21 June–12 August 2018 and central to the show was a new synonymously titled film that examined the peculiarities of individual and collective memory, the function of arts education, and the role of political protest within art. In that film, Oliver, assuming the character of a 1980s television arts presenter, returned to unrealised work from his time as an undergraduate in the mid-2000s. Along the way Oliver ruminates on American Presidential figures, the cultural significance of Johnny Cash, and how the narrative of his own life intertwines with recent socio-political global events. As Oliver’s character states in the film: turbulent times call for ‘archival video montages with contemporaneous music’.

Working not just in Film, Oliver produces wall based and sculptural works that reference, but also distort, the idea of history painting. For his 2018 exhibition Oliver presented a series of collaged relief ‘paintings’ of various sampled imagery including: George Bush’s painted portrait of Vladimir Putin from 2014, a courtroom photograph of OJ Simpson learning he had escaped conviction in 1995, and a reproduction of Norman Rockwell’s painting The Connoisseur of 1961, which gently lampooned the then cutting-edge drip work of Jackson Pollock. These images are physically disrupted and remixed by Oliver, charting surreal connections between visual culture and mainstream politics.

Specifically British references seem to always surface and in particular Oliver’s fascination with football terrace culture. He consider the chants and banners that emerge at football matches as a unique folk art-form, demonstrating remarkable inventiveness and spontaneous humour – but a humour that often slides into poor taste and the highly offensive. But on occasion terraces can be the site of genuine and effective political protest. The OJ Simpson painting hung on top of wall-sized print of Liverpool FC fans holding up a banner reading ‘Expose the lies before Thatcher dies’ in reference to the Hillsborough disaster. Such provocative and seemingly incongruous layering is symptomatic of Oliver’s ‘mangled personal nostalgia’. For his Invites Presentation on 5 August (LINK to Insta 3 AUG 2018 and to our page) Oliver staged Cease and Desist, a new performance lecture with his musical collaborator Tom Loffill and members of The Imperial College Chamber Choir. The performance explored the incongruous and often absurd intersection of politics and pop culture and included choral renditions of terrace chants and more. The performance was followed by a screening of Songs Of Eternal Praise, 2016/17.

This nostalgia is not mangled by or for just the artist, but for all of us, and by history itself. Oliver is concerned with the circular nature of time and his most recent film, You Know Nothing of My Work, 2020 is a brilliant development. Starting in a charity shop the film takes on a musical and ironic comedic journey through the horrors of ‘recent’ ‘revelations’ about the paedophiles and sexual predators that have been stalwarts of Art History, as well as (mainly British) popular culture. From Eric Gill via Jimmy Saville to The Lost Prophets Oliver asks can one separate the product from the producer and if so is that a result of privilege and inequality. Oliver also touches upon the expectations placed on artists to be conduits and commentators for cultural events, and the complex nature of political agency today.

Guy Oliver b. 1982, Barnet, UK. Lives and works in London.
Oliver holds an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London, and a BA in Fine Art from the University of East London. Oliver is one of the recipients of the Jerwood/FVU Awards 2020. Recent solo and two-person shows include those at Random Access Gallery, Syracuse University, New York (2018), Westminster Waste (with Robbie Howells) London (2017) and Chalton Gallery, London (2017). Group exhibitions and performances include those Chalton Gallery (Art Night), London (2019); Daata Editions at ArtRio, Rio de Janeiro (2018); Gern en Regalia, New York (2018); Saatchi Gallery, London (2018); Austrian Cultural Forum, London (2018) and J Hammond Projects, London (2018).