In her new show Live Dead World, artist Gabriele Beveridge has assembled human bodies with display material and glass. "The lure of consumer images and objects fascinates me", she tells Thierry Somers.
Standing in front of Prophetic Souls, a sculpture by Gabriele Beveridge exhibited at the Frieze Art Fair, made me think of how I had consumed my lunch earlier that day. I ate a healthy sandwich, not in a healthy way though, by devouring it too fast. I wanted to spend my time on art and not on lunch especially on preview day. With a full stomach, feeling a bit bloated, I studied how Beveridge assembled the inside of a human body using shop fittings and hand blown glass whereby the garment rails form the rib cage and the glass orbs the organs. It was at that moment that I felt sorry for my poor inner organs working hard to digest my lunch.
A few weeks later, on an empty stomach, I met with Beveridge for an interview at Seventeen gallery, on the occasion of her new show, Live Dead World. I shared my thoughts with her about what her work at the fair represented to me and she loved my reading. For her, the orbs are definitely body-like organs almost like breast implants.
Beveridge gradually moved onto these work. She used to work with photographic images, however, working with glass piqued her curiosity because it moves from a liquid form which is then frozen in time. Not unlike the process of a photograph created in the dark room.
She studied photography at Falmouth University in Cornwall and started to make surreal collages that combine photography and sculpture. She sourced sun faded posters of salon models from chemists, wig shops, hair and nail salons. Beveridge further alienated these artificial images by placing rocks and crystals in front of the models’ faces. In other works, the models’ faces are obscured by pastel-coloured glass orbs resting on top of the frames.
One room of the exhibition is filled with slat wall panels where two works from Beveridge’s ongoing salon imagery series are mounted. The image in Perfect Lasting is from a skin cream advertisement with display glass shelves placed in front of the poster. On the shelves, that are typically used to display beauty products, Beveridge has carefully positioned rocks, minerals and antique coral that cover, extend or complete the shape of the model’s face and body.
The Spine through the Guts is related to Prophetic Souls that was first shown in a group show curated by Damian Griffiths at Annka Kultys gallery. The former work consists of four pastel-coloured glass orbs resting on chrome steel shop fittings that form the shape of a spine. There is something funny about the shapes flapping over the bars as the bottom orbs looks like a beer belly. What makes Beveridge interested in creating a human body with display materials?
Gabriele Beveridge: The human body has become a platform for display. It’s adorned with garments advertising apparel companies. Our faces and hair look the way they do because of posters in shop windows of beauty salons telling us how to look.
By reconfiguring these commercial materials, I’m changing the hierarchy and trying to allow a sense of time in these materials too. Both through symbolic aspects of the image of a body and what we sense as the physical age of the material paper, alongside these shelves that consumer items are usually sold on.
These shop fittings are usually stacked with shampoo bottles or nail varnish; however, I replaced them with rocks and minerals. They provide a platform in which I can extend the body in this case. The image is placed in this situation where its purpose expands beyond representation or a figure and is further alienated from its original context. I’m trying to break the surface level and provide a link between the ideals of beauty and mass consumption of modern human aesthetics.
Gabriele Beveridge: Our inner organs are clean too. They are precision machines with perfect function. It’s strange that we see the inside of ourselves as being less attractive than manufactured materials, don’t you think? I am after “physicality” in my work but this is intuitive and hard to describe. In relation to The Spine through the Guts, I was interested in glass because it flows, because it’s liquid at one point and how physically this fluidity then becomes frozen, almost communicating a duped sense of time. I think the borderline of things fading in and out between symbolic and material experience is where a dream state occurs.
200%: How are the glass orbs made?
GB: They are made at a glass studio in Surrey. I get help with the large scale orbs as they are not something I can do my own. They are melted over the shop fittings and then become these bodily shapes. Glass is a tricky material to work with. You can never know what the outcome will be, but that is what intrigues me so.
GB: With the orbs, the amount of colour that is used is tiny. We put it at the end of the stick, dip it into the hot liquid and we blow it out. The colour blue spreads well over the orb, but copper ruby has a tendency to not spread quite as well over the orb. The colour remains in one space and I really like that.
The gradients of the panels are sprayed by a powder coater also used with cars. I wanted them to read as landscapes, like a sunrise.
GB: I found them from eBay. I was looking for an older style of mannequin hands which I had to hunt down. I wanted elegant female hands with slightly different poses grasping shoe racks. There is an element of greed and consumerism in the work which I didn’t realise until I made it.
200%: Is your work a critique on consumerism?
GB: The lure of consumer images and objects fascinates me; the values that they preserve and perpetuate. I think that my work sits on a line between ambivalence and celebration of this fascination. People are sold glossy, shiny things. They all fade, though, decay and turn to nothing. It’s a denial of the inevitable. I’m interested in how the forces of globalism shape a landscape and where desired projections pop up out of nowhere. I’m less interested in a prescriptive rhetoric on consumer culture than I am exploring how the poetic and the personal can be addressed under these contemporary conditions.
200%: Why is the show called Live Dead World?
GB: I find live dead parts of bodies interesting, such as fingernails, and how they are modified in nail salons to make women more “desirable”. Also, I often imagine my works as entities that have lives, developments and different states that they can occupy in time. I think the title sprang from a few different directions. Although, having said that, I also just liked the ring of it, the absurdity.
200%: Could you talk about the lengths that you go to for your art?
GB: To me, that question implies some kind of struggle. A sacrifice, which it isn’t. I will go to great lengths but I don’t think about it as great lengths. My whole life revolves around my work; it’s my number one priority. Prophetic Souls VI was a recent, somewhat challenging work to make as it involved a fair amount of glass and larger orbs than we had ever made before at the glass studio.
I once persuaded an advertising company to let me remove a whole billboard in the middle of the night – the operation of getting the image was as impressive to me as the image itself. So the lengths, although not an ordeal or a sacrifice, constitute the amount of time and effort I put into my work.
Live Dead World by Gabriele Beveridge, until 15th December, Seventeen
Interview written and conducted by Thierry Somers
Photography: Damian Griffiths. Images; Memorial (opening image), Prophetic Souls VI, Perfect Lasting, The Spine through the Guts, The Spine through the Guts (detail), Memorial, Live Dead World installation. All images courtesy of Gabriele Beveridge and Seventeen.