Group Exhibition at Fruitmarket, Edinburgh, 2023.
Linda Aloysius, Eric Bainbridge, Jonathan Baldock, Simeon Barclay, Joseph Buckley, Beagles & Ramsay, Chila Burman, Andrew Cooper, Jamie Cooper, Penny Goring, Brian Griffiths, Emma Hart, Lee Holden, Josie KO, Dean Kenning, Rosie McGinn, Rebecca Moss, Janette Parris, Anne Ryan, Aled Simons, Laura Yuile.
Poor Things is an exhibition of sculptures made by 22 artists working across the UK. It has come out of conversations about art and social class that Emma Hart and Dean Kenning have had together as friends and as artists:
We’ve come to recognise that often the decisions we make around subject matter, materials and methods are connected to social class. For example, we both often relinquish aesthetic control, as we prioritise what our sculpture does over how it looks.
We associate a focus on aesthetics with middle class traits of privilege, control, the luxury of time on your hands and tasteful décor. We want to think of our own sculptures not as careful arrangements of colours, textures and forms, but as things that are full of life which can speak to us about our world and leave a dent in someone else’s, generating in the mind of the viewer something more than aesthetic appreciation. We are hoping for reactions like joy, pity, laughter or agitation which are not dependent on the audience having a great knowledge of art.
There are other strategies within our work that we think could be triggers for a discussion around class. These include manual production, liveness, entertainment, the use of everyday objects and materials, humour, and a popular visual graphic vocabulary of figures and gestures. We are not saying that these are fixed markers of identity, or labels of exclusively ‘working class’ ways of working, but that the decisions we make have the potential to ignite discussions about class.
We believe that sculpture itself in its thingness – the way it occupies the same ground as the viewer and often makes use of ordinary stuff – and its relation both to manual construction and common forms of making and craft, offers a powerful means by which to question how class impacts on and is expressed through artistic practice. This leads us to wonder: how do other artists’ sculptures speak to and broaden class experiences and understandings? Also, how do class factors intersect with questions of race, gender and sexuality which might be manifested in artists’ works?
In order to explore these matters, we have brought together what we consider to be some of the best ‘poor things’ made by contemporary UK based artists that we have come across. We hope the exhibition and the conversations it provokes might encourage reflection and new thoughts, revealing a multiplicity of experiences of artists whose work speaks to working and lower-middle class backgrounds, whilst identifying points of commonality.