Knocking down the ivory tower
Grennan and Sperandio like to say no to convention. Susanna Beaumont meets a happening transatlantic duo who like to hear what the people say.
:\.\ artists go. Simon (ircnnan and Christopher
said about the complexities of sell-expression. stylistic inllnences or the crisis involved in reaching an inspirational cul—de-sac. (irennan and Sperandio are also quite happy to put their collective boot into artistic convention. ln tact. to call (irennan and Sperandio artists is a bit of a descriptive shortfall.
The pair ltave just ﬂown into (ilasgow from France for the opening of their show All Round Awesome. hart ol the ('(,':\‘s l’lzenonmiu/ season: a multi-event exploration ol‘ the miraculous and unexplained. Sperandio is at the tail end ole cold and is not feeling too chatty. htit (ireunan is tnore talkative.
So what are they about‘.’ ‘\\'e know what we are thinking. we‘re curious ahottt what it‘s like for other people to be alive.‘ says (irennan. Who along with Sperandio. has since the late 80s been ‘interactiug‘
Sperandio lall short or usual expectations. Nothing is
Awesome duo: Grennan and Sperandio as they appear in their recent Cartoon Hits, a comic strip book featuring storylines of everyday life from members of London’s ICA
with the general public to produce art works that don't start me in the studio or go on to exist only in the gallery. The pair aitn to democratise the creative process. empowering and facilitating — all very PC and popularist. which is perhaps why. according to
‘People like working with us. It’s like a project with Marks and Spencer - good quality. We are not expensive
shit in a bag.’
(irennan. the art establishment has not given their work tmtch time or column inches. Not that they are particularly bothered: ‘We‘re not part of that club. we don‘t have to he trendy hoys.'
It was in l988 at the University of lllinois. when
. studying for their Masters degrees. that London-lmrn
Grennan met Sperandio. United by an irritation with
. the ‘splashing paint' approach to art. they have since
. worked as a transatlantic duo (irennan is based in
; lvlanchester while Sperandio lives in New York --
keen to kick the metaphorical butt of the an establishment. For their lirst project The Body. they attended mass and Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. allowing thetn to ‘interact with the couttnunity‘ and produce installations in live (‘hicago churches. Hardly revolutionary. hut (‘irennan and Spcrandio were thought to be moving too last. putting their tutors‘ backs tip. ‘There were big rows with the arts community.‘ says (.irennan. ‘We were big upstatts.‘ But upstaits go places and (jrennan and Sperandio are now in frequent detuand to interact with various sections of the public. They‘ve collaborated with
= (‘hicago’s Bakery. (.‘onl'ectionery and Tobacco Union
to produce a new chocolate bar. They‘ve mobilised. through a mail-out. the entire population of an English town for a group photograph in lz'veryone in Fain/turn. Sounds bizarre bttt it‘s a winner ‘l’eople like working with us. We‘re accountable. It's like a project with Marks and Spencer ~ good qttality. We are not expensive shit in a hag.‘
For l’ltwtontwtul. (irennan and Sperandio worked with eight Glasgow residents who responded to the CCA's call for true-life stories of supernatural experiences. Listening to recollections ol’ among other things. a vision of Jesus Christ and a wooden howl that can answer ‘yes' or ‘no‘ when asked questions. (human and Sperandio have created. under the direction of the story-tellers. computer- generated images of the phenomena. The works tnust be viewed through 3-D glasses. adding another dimension to the experience. But do the pair believe the stories they've heard? Well. that's not the point -- although Sperandio says as an aside that he grew up in a haunted house.
All Round .‘lll'l’ﬁ‘tﬂllt’ is (it l/lt’ ((7.4. (i/usgow us part oft/1c Phenomenal season tmli/ /() Marc/1.
handful of artists in attendance, but
cartoon 50s throwback pastiche of
Capitalising onthe conceptual
Fuse is the brainchild of enterprising artist Patricia Fleming, who back in 1992 saw that all those convoluted government training schemes could be of benefit to that utterly unemployable creature called The Artist. Enlisting the help of that well-known charity, the Catholic Church, and tiny funds from Community Industry, Fuse was born. And for one year twenty art graduates signed off and in return got free studio space, an extra £10 a week for materials and an increased chance of being exhibited.
Three years and three large-scale
Fruit life: Pears
by lisa Smith
Fuse exhibitions later, it’s 1996 and Councillor Pat Lally et al at Glasgow City Chambers decide that the exhibition at McLellan Galleries would be the ideal hi-iacking point to launch Glasgow’s Festival of Visual Arts with a selection of vol-au-vents and a
i no promises of hard cash when the
I money runs out at the end of this
' financial year. But let’s forget the art
j politik and concentrate on the work by E 39 selected Glasgow-based, at one
time or another, artists.
Though Glasgow is fast assuming the mantle of producer of more conceptual artists than Berlin or New York put together, Fusestill manages to squeeze in the exhibits from those embracing the good old-fashioned school of drawing and painting. Mark Gilbert’s large-scale oil portrait of his parents — a la Lucien Freud — is an impressively grand but conservative work that’s already attracted critical acclaim, while in Moray Hilary’s disconcerting but wonderful series of Lapse paintings, we observe a searing pink and raw scar tissue gradually heal over and tuck back into itself.
Humour is a quality many of the artists in this show seem to have happily taken to heart, from the quirky
Hunter and Kettle’s luminous, wacked- out Pinky and Perky to Andrew Brook’s memorable blown-up footballing photos of Subbuteo plastic heroes in Robbed and Two Left Feet. Elsewhere CCA and Tramway faces Stephanie Smith and Martin Boyce make another two steps forward in their hopefully brilliant careers. Smith’s video of a stockinged-lipsticked face chewing gum is compulsive as normality transformed into a bloody and disfonned activity that borrows heavily trom the Rowan Atkinson school of facial elasticity. Other highlights are Janie Nicol’s Going Out, McCormack’s wink-and-you’d-miss-it tape and Sarita Goosey’s tissue paper and wax installation. Fuse 1996 may have caught flak from being held in the whitewalls of the McLellan, but the work definitely rises to the occasion. (Ann Donald)
Fuse 19961s at the McLeIlan Galleries, Glasgow until Sun 25 Feb.
56 The List 9-22 Feb l996