Sancintya Simpson interviews Gerwyn Davies: QCP Profile of the Month
Gerwyn Davies is an emerging photographic artist based in Brisbane. He has completed a Bachelor of Photography with a double major in Artistic Practice and Creative Advertising at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University where he is currently completing his Honours program as well as sessional teaching. Gerwyn has exhibited throughout Australia, the USA and Chile, as well as curated for and produced several public photographic projects in Brisbane. Gerwyn’s work lingers between art and advertising with a shifting focus upon non-traditional photographic processes woven with craft and fashion, the construction of abstract costuming as well as the exploration of the construction and performance of queer masculinities.
Gerwyn Davies ‘The Butcher’ 2010
Gerwyn Davies ‘The Butcher’ 2010
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cock (2010), contends with notions of masculinity. Using craft, a stereotypical feminine practice through stitching paper dioramas in juxtaposition with dark, violent and sexual environments, backdrops of queer past. How do you see this series as adding to dialogue on masculinity and queer agenda? What is your position in relation?
Creating that series for me was a fairly self-indulgent process I suppose. I guess I was feeling my way through environments and creating the work considering the histories I felt had been abandoned or relinquished that I felt an attachment to. I wouldn’t say I created this work with the intention of adding anything monumental to a dialogue but instead from a place of feeling a detachment to contemporary mainstream gay male ‘culture’. I wanted to retain that sense of eroticism for the private, dark and hidden space that queer masculinities occupied in the past. A little further away from the limelight perhaps of the normative modern gay male designed and approved by the mainstream. In essence, I was exploring some spaces and identities that had for all intents and purposes, dissolved before my time as a homo man. A celebration of sex in addition to the looming of risk and violence. In creating these small dioramas through a delicate and laborious process it allowed to create these heavily detailed spaces that could pull you in and would contrast with refinement against these heavier ideas.
Similarly your latest series Steel Town Disciples (2011) comes across as very aggressive and masculine. Using craft once again to cover masculine iconography in blue-collar denim, the objects are fetished positioned next to ripened and smashed fruit, covered in cream. How do you want the viewer to perceive this series? And does this series relate to Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cock (2010) through concept or only through visuals?
I guess in parts the two different series’ do correlate in construction processes and a broader discussion. Steel Town Disciples however is more about the construction and stratification of various masculinities through trivial symbolism and their performance. I wanted to shroud and bound these totems of ideal and apex masculinity through craft with the intention of eroticising and disempowering them by conflating them with objects of desire and passion. Blue denim’s birth from the heroically masculine American cowboy, to the rebellious James Dean and the working class champions of Springsteen and Jimmy Barnes to me creates the perfect material embodiment of normative masculine ideals. Of course there are other generic contemporary examples such as high-vis and flannel but it is the rigidity and rough tactility of denim that makes it ideal to appropriate and delicately stitch and sew. In creating such work then I wanted to truly camp these objects and reposition them as passive still lifes, disarmed and subjugated. In terms of construction, I relied heavily on craft processes and opted for the laboured and detailed approach similar to or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the cock. In that sense, they are similar as they both use these heavily gendered methods as a weapon of camp.
Gerwyn Davies ‘The Helmet’ 2011
What was the process in relation to coming up with the concept/design for, creating the costumes and photographing the images for 50ft McQueenie (2011)? How many hours were involved in each aspect of the process?
Creating this series was often a lengthy process between conception and initial design and final capture and resolution. As a result the work evolved so far beyond its original starting block which made it continually interesting for me. After original designing costumes from a basic graphic concept with no strong foundation point to return to, I eventually found it easier to construct work that was rooted in specific characters. I decided to imagine antiquated occupations like the blacksmith, madame and harlequin and abstract them from that point in time. Obviously there is varying results where some characters remain relatively true to form and others are lost in the process. I definitely lost track of hours creating the costumes from scratch, letting them sit for days before pulling them apart and redesigning elements. Unfortunately there was also a whole range of characters that I abandoned after days of working on them purely because I got sick of staring at them, poor souls.
What response did you want from viewers in relation to this series and how do you see your work in relation to the lap over from art to advertising? How do you see this lapover enchancing your practice? Do you feel it allows for more flexibility or does it constrain your practice?
The response was really positive which of course is rewarding after immersing yourself in constructing something for a large amount of time. Generally I imagine people enjoyed the fantasy involved in these characters. Or I do at least. It allows you to develop your own narrative for these beasts, develop desire, develop intent, develop histories. I completely embrace the fusion of art and advertising in some of my work because the shiny veneer of advertising really allows you to enhance this fantasy and desire. I believe creating this work on that edge offers a much greater degree of flexibility. You can borrow advertising techniques without being bound to sell, and explore a concept as self-indulgently as possible without having to delve too deeply in to intention or meaning. Of course there are a lot of conditions and variants in that but that is how I felt about this specific work at least.
How do you feel about the labelling and separation of your work in relation to the photographic genres of art/advertising?
It isn’t something I would personally reflect on before setting out to make work but perhaps creeps in itself throughout the process. I really enjoy the world of advertising and its aesthetic, at best it is vivid and transitory and energetic. However, it can also be predictable and repetitive and unadventurous. I don’t see the benefit in separating them and driving a wedge when you can live in the gap and borrow from them both. Some days I like to build something quickly and make it as shiny as possible and other days I want to sit and consider all its parts.
Gerwyn Davies ‘The Chair’ 2010
For your Honours project at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University how do you plan to develop your series 50ft McQueenie (2011)?
I plan on really exploring the body as object further and the construction of fantasy in abstract fashion and costume. I want to make things bigger, louder, heavier. I am madly drawing the shapes and considering the materials of beasts and matching them to constructed habitats. I love the worlds of nonfigurative fashion, cosplay and virtual identities and the opportunities they allow people to adopt powerful new physical and mental forms. 50ft McQueenie involved a profiling or uniformity to the characters and they were locked in absent space. In a sense they were static, specimens. I would like these new characters to feel more aggressive and unencumbered with a strong sense of tactility. That is my launching pad for now at least, but I may wake up one day and just want to make something as shiny as possible.
For more information on Gerwyn Davies, visit his website and the QCP website.
Sancintya Simpson is an emerging artist based in Brisbane.