LeftLion Magazine - November 2021 - Issue 141

Page 46

ART

Labour of Love

words: Thomas Cobbett photo: Craig Kirk

UNDER COVER ARTIST #141 November 2021

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LeftLion regular Leosaysays fills us in on the inspiration behind his devilish third mag cover... Tell us a bit about yourself… I’ve always lived in Nottingham, moved around the city throughout my life and currently live on the outskirts. I have a one-year-old son, Seth, who I think the world of. I am a UKCP registered counsellor and psychotherapist and also a practising artist in my spare time (which is limited!). I go by the name Leosaysays as an artist, which has just stuck from a made-up character from many years ago.

Be Loved allows a playful and personal glance into Carmen Argote’s digestion of a space, in dialogue with each environment she inhabits. Developed through a residency at Primary, and including pieces previously crafted in Los Angeles, this exhibition encompasses works on paper, video, and sculpture. We take a look at the expansive new project... As I walk through Primary to view Be Loved, the first UK solo exhibition by Argote (b. 1981, Guadalajara, México), my interest is piqued by the various small figures resting against the walls. The braided models stand only a few feet high as they welcome you in, petite ushers fashioned from braided paper, plastic, and feather. The playful forms open the exhibition with a nod to the boundary of performance and sculpture; Argote’s practise revolves around action-ritual, and the process of making these friends feels just as important as where they stand now.

Argote becomes fascinated with the transference of matter; as she uses crayons to create rubbings from the cemetery, the clump of wax comes to resemble a strawberry

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The main exhibition space hosts three stretches of paper, works made in situ which now line the expansive floor. The silhouettes of three figures stain the surfaces in a row and as I step back to view the piece, I can see the origin of these marks through the window which overlooks the old playground. Each one is a vibrant rubbing of the hopscotch from when Primary used to be a school, and at its crest rests another braided creature, battered by the elements having finished its playtime. The paper acts as a bridge between body

What was the inspiration behind the cover? Dante’s Inferno, which is a fairly obvious and standard source when looking at depictions of Hell, but stands the test of time as being a rather imaginative insight into Hell and its punishments for each sin (or Dante’s warped mind). I also wanted demons depicted to be reminiscent of those from many medieval paintings, which were often hybrids of animal and humanoid forms, to represent the bestial nature of Hell as opposed to the higher morals of Heaven.

and architecture, poetically tying together a notion of the self and inner child to the building which the work is drawing upon. Beside the pieces on the floor, there is a video projection comprising of ritual-actions taking place in one of the biggest and oldest cemeteries in LA, documenting Argote as she does rubbings and performance. Argote becomes fascinated with the transference of matter; as she uses crayons to create rubbings from the cemetery, the clump of wax comes to resemble a strawberry. This impermanence of materials is echoed through the room as more clumps of crayon dot along the wall (presumably those used to make the work in the centre of the room) and play against the memory of Argote’s performance. The video documents the process of these actions looking at generational familial relationships, and the influence of patriarchal thinking, values, and violence.

I like a lot of fantasy art, kitsch as it can be, having grown up with video games of the eighties and nineties in which the box art was often a sickly, airbrushed illustration that resembled nothing from the actual gameplay! In this instance the original Doom cover art was a primary inspiration.

Leaving the exhibition, I walk past a braided figure that I’d previously missed, coated in feathers, and laying leisurely along a pipe by the steps leading in. While most of the materials used for the work were procured on site, these feathers flew from LA, in a coat Argote bought to brave the British weather - but with no need of it as she departed, the coat was repurposed to envelop this last figure. A sense of unresolvement is perhaps to be expected when work is process based, the props of these ritual-actions remain present because the process is never quite finished, as Argote goes on to continue this project back in LA.

Tell us about some projects you’ve worked on in the past… This is my third LeftLion cover. I’ve done various bits and pieces over the years, most recently for the New Trajectories magazine which is a 2021 homage to the life and works of Robert Anton Wilson – working alongside some fabulous artists, writers and general weirdos there!

Be Loved is available to view at Primary on Fridays and Saturdays until 11 December 2021 weareprimary.org

How does it compare with some other projects you’ve worked on? I think I’ve always been drawn to darker aesthetics and content. I like a lot of psychedelic, outsider and lo-fi art anyway and I’m a huge fan of seventies and eighties horror of the Giallo variety – a lot of my work has often drawn inspiration from those sources. What was the biggest challenge that you faced in creating the piece? Drawing depictions of demons whilst facing my own inner demons, especially around Halloween when the veil between the material and spirit worlds is at its thinnest…

What have you got planned for the future? I want to run to the hills, somewhere high up to avoid the floods and civil unrest due to break out around 2023 onwards. I’m not sure if I’m joking or not. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the LeftLion readers? Just because we know Demons don’t exist, doesn’t mean they can’t influence our lives. leosaysays.com @leosaysays