Artworks by Simon Fell at

THE GARAGE

4b Sudeley Place, Brighton BN2 1HF

Four Weekends in May 2019:
Sat 4th & Sun 5th  |  Sat 11th & Sun 12th  |  Sat 18th & Sun 19th |  Sat 25th & Sun 26th 

11am – 5pm

Civilians at The Garage is part of the Brighton Artists Open House festival and the Kemptown Artists Trail

Civilian: a person not in the armed services or the police force.

States of conflict

Civilians is a show of ceramic sculpture. Some of the work depicts figures in various states of conflict with each other or within themselves. Other states are also featured, from uneasy stalemates, to focused cooperation and unbridled joy.

The struggle between good and bad

If civilians exist then it follows there is a conflict nearby. You cannot be defined as a civilian except in relation to an armed force, a conflict or a war. Here are some ideas about why this might interest me as an artist. As a boy I was surrounded by images of heroes, characters like Dan Dare or The Lone Ranger that proved themselves as males (they always were male) by winning conflicts, by being effective and popular. Fighting was (and largely still is) depicted to children as a clear cut battle between good and bad that good usually won. Not much time was wasted on how bad dealt with getting their just desserts as everyone identified with good. The takeaway from this for a boy was that winning is desirable and of course you cannot win unless you fight. Thus fighting is positive, exciting and inextricably entwined with masculinity. This brings you into conflict with other boys and another kind of conflict with anyone who does not have this idea. A toy called Action Man was released in the UK in 1966.

My brother was 18 months older than me, we fought all the time until we were teenagers. To my memory it was one long fight with bits of joking and co-operation in between. Naturally we both wanted to win so there was frequent if not constant struggle. Were we set up? What else could we have done I now wonder?

The challenge of every day

Like my brother and I the degree to which you are involved as a civilian or combatant is not always up to you. Conflicts occur on many levels, between siblings, between countries, between classes, between races, between friends, between lovers & spouses. Conflict also occurs within your own mind, trying to live with conflicting needs and ideas is the challenge of everyday modern life. For a man in 21st century Europe life is full of contradictions. Masculinity is only really obviously in crisis when it hits the news through gross acts by individuals. In my view the current right wing back lash is completely bound up with changing expectations of what it means to be a man and the internal crisis that provokes in times of massive cultural change.

This is the kind of paradox I am seeking to focus on with my artwork. I think it is vital to recognise conflict, to acknowledge that there are problems that are not resolved. This recognition is the first of many steps towards resolution where it is possible and it is important to also recognise that not all conflicts get resolved.

Unsettled times

We are living in extraordinarily unsettled times. Trouble seems to be building all around us, there are forces at work which are encouraging it and welcome it. Forces that want us to be in confusion and confounded by the complexity of seeing and working our way through it. We have become embroiled in a strange kind of quasi civil war in this country in the form of Brexit. As part of this struggle people frequently use the threat that there could be a real civil war if Brexit is not enforced.

Room for interpretation

Not that all artists always know what they are making or saying until it is made, often the understanding and rationalisation follow the making rather than precede it. Objects made with clay do not always translate directly into English, not all languages contain the same set of meanings either, so there is room for interpretation and room for diverse ideas in addition to my intentions in making the work.

I hope you can find meaning of your own in my work.

 

Civilians, Artworks by Simon Fell at The Garage, 4b Sudeley Place, Brighton, UK