Community Standards?

Can we talk about community standards for just a moment?

As an artist, my work deals primarily with how we act when online and using messaging/dating apps and our acceptance of unsolicited lewd messages as the norm and a consequence of using social media, manifesting under the umbrella of ‘GRUNDER’, a series of tongue-in-cheek installations, grotesque sculptures and satirising large scale prints. In such a time where sex scandals are unfolding one after the other and sexual harassment cases and stories are ever present in the public consciousness I find it rather odd that once social media platform had decided to remove one of my images because it did not comply with their community standards.

The image in question depicted a conversation between two users on a messaging app and marked a turning point within my own work where rather than stay silent upon receiving a request for a lewd or nude image I would fulfil the users request but send them images of my (grotesque) work instead. It was hoped that this would awaken the nude-requesting user to the absurdity of their behaviour and stir a sense of shock and disgust within them. For the most part this has worked as planned but in some cases only seemed to make users more determined to get that all important nude image. In this respect I’ve had a number of different reactions to this exercise ranging from letting me know that those are not my genitals, as if I wasn’t aware or had mistakenly sent them a photo of a malformed six foot hairy penis sculpture by sheer accident, some then went on to change the wording of the question as if I just didn’t understand what they had asked but my favourite (who had been completely unphased by my sculptures) went on to ask for “genuine” photos which only serves to strike up bizarre and unwanted similarities between my genitals and the Loch Ness monster!

The community standards I write about, which deemed my image inappropriate for that particular social media platform acknowledges that there are times that users may want to share nude images but for a number of (unexplained) reasons does not allow nudity on its platform: “This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too”.

From this, I’d have assumed my image would have been safe with it being a picture of a sculpture and not a photo of some real male anatomy. Secondly, although I do strive to make my sculptures as realistic as possible in terms of wet, fleshy appearance and hair, there is no way that you could mistake the abstracted and notably detached bodily forms for the real thing, especially when you consider the sheer girth of some of the phallic pieces is enough to bring tears to the eye!

It is also worth noting that in the time taken for me to upload the image (and carefully festoon the caption with witty hashtags) I had received two unsolicited and lewd messages that had obviously flouted none of the platform’s community standards. It does seem somewhat ridiculous that users can freely send whatever they fit to other users and sexually harass any user who they may happen across whilst those who try to speak out against the current accepted culture of laddish behaviour online are censored.

I do support the idea of online social media platforms having and following a set of community standards but feel that more could be done in order to ensure that the right content is removed. This does invite further discussion into online privacy, as I do not condone apps and internet providers snooping into users personal messages but by the same token do not enjoy the sexual harassment of unsolicited lewd messages. If users are able to harass me with lewd messages and unsolicited photos, I should be able to return the favour with grotesque sculpture.

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As part of my residency at Digital Artist Residency  I’ve been getting into some (pretty basic) video work, using simple transitions and effects to give the impression of a smart phone screen. I wanted to project the monotony of using social messaging apps and the frustration of waiting for them to load only for us to waste our time waiting for updates or applications crashing. Are these apps really worth the wait and continual disappointment?

I also made sure to go and play in the snow during the recent cold weather, as you can see below.

Exhibition News – GRUNDER : Version 1.0

Larry Walker-Tonks welcomes you to ‘GRUNDER : Version 1.0’; a pop-up exhibition of sleazy sculpture and lewd paintings. Larry presents a satirical yet sobering look at our social media habits and the immense pressure put upon social media users to drop their morals, standards and their pants with little regard for their own sexual health.

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Join the party at AATMA’s basement*, enjoy the booze, forget your morals, meet a lover, loathe the music.

14-16 Faraday St
Manchester
M1 1BE

7pm-10pm

*AATMA is an 18+ Venue

This is the first of a two part exhibition, ‘GRUNDER : Version 1.2’ takes place on the 4th September 2017 at the LGBT Foundation in Manchester (6pm-9pm)

Exhibition News – Lancashire Open Exhibition 2017

Delighted to announce that I have had two pieces selected for the Lancashire Open Exhibition 2017.

Having had a Shipwreck piece selected for the 2016 show, I return to Chapel Gallery (Ormskirk) this year with two very different pieces.

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The first piece, ‘Gateway 1’, dates from 2013 and was among the first work I made after moving to Manchester. At the time I made this I was living on a friend’s floor in a strange, new and (at times) unfriendly city. I was just starting down a long and horrendous JSA learning curve and looking for work and a place of my own. I found comfort in drawing and began to draw tall wrought Iron gateways. They were always locked in determination to keep me out but nearly always broken and inviting me in.

Gateway 1 had a previous outing in London, exhibited at ’13 The Gallery’ in Islington, London in 2014 as part of their Art-fordable programme.

Untitled 4

My second piece, ‘Untitled 4’ is part of my current expanding foam-based work. It is brand new and was only finished a matter of days before being taken to the gallery. Expanding foam flesh sits inside a small aperture, from which the viewer is presented with the beautiful and the grotesque as contorted and wiry hair is bejewelled with colourful varnish crystals.

The piece itself is tiny, being only around 10cm tall. I cant wait to see this in situ!

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The Lancashire Open Exhibition runs 22nd July – 6th September 2017 with a preview night on the 21st July.

Chapel Gallery, St Helens Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire L39 4QR
01695 571 328

Exhibition News – Small World

Delighted to announce that I have a piece of work selected to be part of PS Mirabel’s 2017 Open Call for their ‘Small World’ exhibition.

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My piece, ‘Untitled 3’, forms part of an early exploration into the properties of expanding foam and its qualities when combined with other materials.

‘Small World’ showcases the best of tiny artwork with no piece exceeding 20cm in any direction.

Exhibition preview is on the 7th July 6pm to 9pm and open every Saturday 11am to 5pm until 13th August and will be part of the MANIFEST programme which coincides with the 2017 Manchester International Festival.

Mirabel Studios, 14/20 Mirabel Street
Manchester. M3 1PJ

Exhibition News – Engage in Colour

Thrilled to announce that my piece ‘Mekewāp’ has been selected for exhibition as part of ‘Engage in Colour‘ at Mirfield Arts Hub.

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“ENGAGE IN COLOUR’ IS AN ABSTRACT COLLABORATIVE EXHIBITION, IN WHICH WE INVITE EMERGING ARTISTS TO SHOWCASE ALONGSIDE OUR MEMBERS AT CREATIVE ARTS HUB IN MIRFIELD, WEST YORKSHIRE”

‘Mekewāp’ dates back to 2011 and is a recent return to old work, rediscovered whilst clearing out a childhood home, and stumbling across several works each with the ‘wigwam’ motif the artists questions the purpose of the dwelling and the home. Can the home be spiritual? Do we carry our ideals of the home and the dwelling like snails carry a shell?

Exhibition dates Fri 7 Jul – Sat 12 Aug 2017

Opening Times Weds – Fri  10am–5pm | Sat 10am–3pm

Opening night Fri 7 Jul, 6pm – 8pm

Address Creative Arts Hub CIC, 1st floor, 51-53 Huddersfield Rd, Mirfield, WF14 8AB

Hope to see you there.

 

In The Studio – June Update

At last! An update! Things have been a bit busy behind the scenes since my last studio update and now its time to share with it you.

After the Constellations show had finished and the installation went on to Swansea’s ‘Elysium Gallery’ as part of ‘THE END IS BY YUR’ I turned to what was next for my work. I wanted to make bigger and more disgusting work.

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Sculpture work before painting.

I returned back to phallic imagery, as this was already a recurring theme in my work. With this new piece I was determined to make it bigger and more grotesque.

In my usual making process of forcing foam into objects I also began adding previous foam experiments into the setting foam to add both length to the sculpture and more bulbous ‘tumours’ to the piece.

I also came across a red foil whilst in my local art shop, it works in a similar way to gold leaf and I thought that it could lend itself to being a metaphor for blood or provide connotations of danger in my work.

I had also been thinking about the use of hair in my work, in the previous pieces I had used my own hair but, obviously, there is only so much of that you can cut off! I opted instead to use hair extensions. Previous uses of hair in my work weren’t quite hitting the right chord with the level of disgust I was going for. After a while I realised that one of my biggest hates in life is having cold, wet hair, so why not try and replicate that?

The wet look was created with varnish, I found that the hair would often just soak it up giving little coverage to the whole sculpture. To combat this I used a spray varnish on dry hair which provides a seal and gives further coats of varnish a surface to sit on. One unexpected element of the spray varnish was that it would dry in ‘droplets’ (pictured below), giving a weird sense of beauty amongst the grotesque.

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It was after this piece that I began to wonder if that the phallic imagery was perhaps a bit too obvious and so I returned to using other objects and really exploiting the abstracted body.  I love the way in which the foam collapses onto itself in this piece.

 

In my work the plinth is becoming a vital part of my work and whilst moving away from the text based element of my work I still want to be clear as to what my work is about, hence retaining coloured plinths or bases for my work to represent chat boxes. As long as I retain the same two colours (blue and yellow) then I would hope the idea of chat boxes can still ring through. I was clear that I wanted to move away from the paper used in my early installation piece, opting to use wood instead. I found that thick ‘slabs’ of MDF give the ‘chat box’ base a real presence.

The foam was applied directly onto the MDF board. Once set the two pieces were given an undercoat of red and orange respectively. Each piece was then dry brushed with light, fleshy tones until each looked like a slab of processed meat. The bases were then painted and the entire piece varnished heavily.

I felt that something was missing from each piece and experimented with using hair again. The hair comes from hair extensions and is seen appearing to ‘sprout’ from craters on the surface of the sculpture. I think they work particularly well as a pair, the colour combination of the bases plays strongly into the impact of the piece – they fall a little flat when separated.

Alongside everything else I had also been keen to make bigger and bigger work. The piece in the pictures below, “Show Daddy More Of You”, has been built up in layers of expanding foam over a five month period and stands at just over 4ft tall. With this piece I really wanted to push the notion of body horror and force viewers to react to the piece.

The foam was painted a mixture of reds and then dry brushed with various pale and fleshy tones before clumps of hair were added. Layers of varnish were then built up; which not only adds further to the grotesque nature of the piece but also gives a high sheen, giving a sense of quality – as if it were a high end product.

In playing around with different sized boards as plinths I had created this quite elongated piece, seen below in its undercoat.

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I opted to use blonde hair this time after seeing a recent exhibition at Caustic Coastal (Salford) and wondered if the use of blonde hair in my work might alter projected connotations. I think the use of such a platinum blonde (which has its own associations with female figures and beauty) projects some of those onto the sculpture. This contrasts nicely with the body horror and pools of varnish that have formed to look like puss.

 

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So what next? Pictured above is the start of my next piece which I intend to be the start of a grotesque archway (watch this space). Other work I may return to are the symbols of the hearts and (as incredibly relevant to my work) work on condom wrappers.

 

Exhibition News – Middlesbrough Art Weekender

Today marks two weeks to go until the opening of Middlesbrough Art weekender and my return to exhibiting in Middlesbrough. From the 19th – 21st May work of International and Regional Artists will be shown across forty locations alongside public events and workshops.

Alongside work in pop-up galleries there will also be shows opening in Mima, House of Blah Blah, Felix the Gallery, Platform A and Teesside University’s Degree Show.

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Linking all of these shows is an art trail along Albert Road, which is where my work will be shown.

You may recognise this piece from an earlier installation piece (as shown in Manchester and Swansea). Due to space constraints the whole piece cannot be shown.

I am thrilled to be showing work in my old stomping ground after a four year absence alongside some incredible artists.


“JOIN US FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE MIDDLESBROUGH ART WEEKENDER @ MIMA FROM 6PM TILL 8PM , FOLLOWED BY FOOD AND DRINKS CATERED BY THE SMELTRY.

OPENING NIGHT PERFORMANCES FROM HAROLD OFFEH AND OMSK SOCIAL CLUB.

PICK UP ONE OF THE 300 LIMITED EDITION CATALOUGES FOR THE WEEKEND AND CELEBRATE WITH US THE FIRST OF AN ANNUAL ART WEEKEND IN MIDDLESBROUGH.

THE MAIN EXHIBITION INCLUDING WORKS BY: AMANDA BEECH, SHIRIN FAHIMI, BENJAMIN BUSCH, MILOS TRAKILOVIC, ORAN OREILLY, AINE ODWYER, WOLFGANG BITTNER, ADAM GIBNEY, RICHARD FORREST AND FIONA KELLY

ART TRAIL ACROSS 30 LOCATIONS

THREE POP-UP GALLERIES

AS WELL AS SUPPORTING PARTNERS PROGRAMME INCLUDING TESSIDE UNIVERSITIES DEGREE SHOW ‘SUBLIME’ AND EXHIBTIONS AT PLATOFRM A, HOUSE OF BLAH BLAH AND MIMA.

MIDDLESBROUGH ART WEEKENDER 2017 IS HAPPENING 19TH – 21ST MAY. SHOWCASING INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ARTISTS ACROSS FORTY LOCATIONS, AS WELL AS HOSTING PUBLIC EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

WE WELCOME EVERYONE TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR PROGRAMME AND THE WEEKEND.”