Images by Gail Foster
Si Griffiths teams up with Mike Long and Emma Sally for an all-together different art show…..in Chippenham!
If, like me, you like your art with edge, and you don’t stand on convention, a trio of Chippenham artists have a DIY exhibition at the Yelde Hall you really need to see.
With a poster akin to the cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show show does just that, it grabs the conventional art world where it hurts and hurls it away, but in a satirical manner rather than all-out anarchy.
We’ve had a few moments with Si Griffiths online in the past, it was a great opportunity to meet him in person, but more so, see his paintings for real. It’s an argument I try convey to many non-art-lovers; it’s one thing to see a 72dpi Google image, even a print in a book, but something all together different to view the original in a gallery.
Part-psychedelic-part-punker painter with a penchant for clowns, there’s always narrative to Si’s work, hidden meanings, repeated symbolism and a counter-culture ethos. With a dark satirical edge, his paintings often reflect underground comix of yore. Think Rick Griffin rather than Vaughn Bode, and principally pre-Fredrick Wertham’s censorship assault on US comic books in the fifties, such as the daring EC line. A couple even have hand painted text in a similar font to EC comic books.
While it’s the comic influence which initially drew me in his work, others show a proficient hand at life drawing, but all are psychedelia, explosive with colour and hold disturbing undertones. Tattoo-like devils, skeletons, but particularly misplaced clowns, often in unusual or dangerous predicaments, say with hookers and guns, or sitting alongside a table depicting disciples in Da Vinci’s Last Supper, with Jesus as a jester. There’s a slight element to pop art and surrealism, with a plethora of cultural references, Freddy Kruger and that guy with the pins in his head! Yet Si’s work is highly unique and stylised, accurately rendered, with running symbolism such as yin and yan, and Edvard Munch’s the Scream seems to hang on the walls of many scenes.
We talked over many influences, I mentioned Pieter Bruegel, but in turning a corner to the second artist, Mike Long, I noted he had an even greater influence to Bruegal, and L. S. Lowry too, with some pleasing busy scenes you could examine for an age and still discover something new. I feel this similar element brings both artists together, yet this is a varied show, and Mike’s take is different from Si’s angle.
I breezed past some still life, something faithfully enlightening in concept, and onto some scenes which defied the laws of perspective. This took me to mention Hogarth, for his play on perspective, but from a larger scenic painting Mike pointed to a group of fairground attendees in a pose akin to Goya’s classic The Third of May 1808; again, I see why these two artists complement each other perfectly, Goya had a cartoony style, of sorts, yet both Si and Mike retain their individualism. Mike expressed the scenes are real, with alternative angles to various parts, like the cubist approach.
I loved a painting on the end of the board, of a steampunk airship, and Mike elucidated his inspiration came from the frame he used. This then was an entirely new approach to me, not fathoming the frame is anything more than the sum of its parts, a frame, a border to the end of the piece. With this notion I looked back at his still life paintings, and across the board there was a definite relationship to the frame in each painting. While in some the frame matched the style or theme, in others the painting extended out across the frame in an inimitable fashion.
Between the two, Emma Sally’s work displayed some beautiful still life with expressive attention to reflection, but as I progressed to the other side of the wall, I witnessed a move to veiled meanings, of freedom, of love and passion. These are highly skilled paintings, breath-taking photographic renditions, and a series of oriental fashioned female poses, they were absolutely awesome, I demanded our lady of the lens, Gail, takes a snap of this one, as I think it alone will lure you in to this wonderful and friendly little exhibit.
It’s free folks, the works are extremely fair-priced, and I could think of three billion ways less productive and interesting to kill an hour in Chippenham! What is more, The Yelde Hall is a lovely space for it, central in Chippenham and I hope it inspires more artistic happenings in the town. It’s on until Thursday 26th September, open daily from 10am until 4pm, except Sunday.
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