This exhibition brings together artists, Kate Merry and Daniel Sparkes, in a humorous exploration of pop culture, shopping, sex, and ancient burial sites. Featuring subject matter as wide ranging as Hetty Peglar’s Tump, Capel’s Mill canal trench, Christopher Biggins and The Smurfs, both artists make work that is darkly comic. In this show Merry’s vivacious titted idols sit side by side with Sparkes sculptural drawings; local landscapes support phallic eruptions, and irreverent commentary becomes a flag waving symbol of a deflated modernism; the rallying cry of “Make it new!” (Erza Pound,1934) now perhaps a more world-weary “ F**k it , Make it anyway!”
Merry’s sculptures give a sense of the body being subsumed by trash culture, or perhaps a feeling of nostalgia (in olden times “nostalgia” was considered a medical condition!). The body is heavy, at turns full and at others flacid, often becoming a formless lumpen landscape. Found objects and painted clay combine to create playfully mutated hyper-idols that are simultaneously staunch and titillating, strange and colourful products of a pervasive cognitive dissonance. But these abject forms (creatures?) have a curious sense of optimism, a desperate buoyancy. A successful illustrator, Merry‘s sculptures realise the colourful and cheeky nature of her 2D work.
Emerging from the genre of Comic Abstraction, Sparkes applies interventions into the quotidian fabric of life, injecting it with dark, comic motifs. His dusty graphite drawings appear to be a flow of late-night retrospective imaginings and plans, maquettes for proposed giant monuments to things that never happened.'Seussian' landforms emerge out of forsaken objects, their surfaces scarred and littered with abandoned swimming pools, unrealised architectural follies and paranoid bunkers. Sparkes’ early billboard works around Bristol were comprised of spray-painted appendages to advertisements that unmasked the banal absurdity of consumer culture. Sparkes brings to the surface a certain horror that simmers at the unanalysed subterranean level of culture, adding colour, vision and even magic to grim depictions of people, animals and landscapes.
The two artists expand, divert and converge in this exhibition, finally merging into one in a darkly phallic and pink-fringed flag of cheerful defiance.