BAP Artist Talk: Eddie Peake
Last January 22, at De La Salle College of St. Benilde, Alain Camiling, Professor of Visual Art Forms, introduced BAP resident Eddie Peake to the students of SDA.
Eddie opened the talk by reading email exchanges with a writer about his multifaceted show Concrete Pitch at White Cube in Bermondsey last February 2018. He tackles topics about white male privilege vis-à-vis being a white male making art today; and depression, which was treated as a metaphoric and thematic presence and was presented in the form of a loop, which he mentions is a recurring theme in his body of work. Peake also mentions that the exhibition was partly a response to the recent political and social events such as Brexit and President Trump. The themes of Concrete Pitch are based on a social recreation ground in his hometown called Finsbury Park where it united a socially, economically, and culturally diverse community.
The loop, as mentioned, is a recurring theme in the London-based artist’s work. He mentions that we are preoccupied by the loop as a construct, and as a metaphoric potential. In his exhibition at the Curve Gallery The Forever Loop (2016), the loops were emphasized in a number of ways: through the structure of the gallery, the text painted on the walls, and the performative aspect of the exhibition. He included a pas de quatre entitled Revolution (2016) within the exhibition which had two dancers. According to the artist, Revolution is an exchange between the two dancers, the objects, and the viewers. Peake indicates that he invites the viewer to reflect upon the relationships between desire, sexuality and visual pleasure, while drawing on art historical references, classical sculpture and popular culture with this show.
With his past shows being multimedia and nonlinear, he counteracts this practice by discussing his latest exhibition People (2018), which focuses on singular elements of his practice, in particular painting. “Painting was where it all started,” Peake states, “When I started art school, it was because I wanted to be a painter.” The show features recent paintings in four distinct series, including vast works that resemble cinema screens and small wooden panels. At the heart of the exhibition there is a question of how one reconciles one's own identity, position, and responsibilities as an individual in relation to broad social issues.
He continues to present videos of his early instructional performances wherein he challenges two performers to exchange clothes with another without exposing any skin. Another work included naked men playing a football (rugby) match. And the last performance he showcased was Head (2016) in New York with a completely different process as compared to the two previous works. Head involves five nude bodies covered head to toe in red, orange, yellow, turquoise, and purple body paint. The piece explores sexual impulses as they manifest in unrequited desire. More specifically, the desire for the unattainable, whether it be because of the complex nature of romantic and sexual relationships, jealousy, love triangles, or sheer deviation from the norm. For Peake, the work is intensely personal to the point where he says there is no separation between himself and what he creates. "I'm totally subjectively immersed in the work and I also want that," he says. "The work is just me and my desires." As an artist, he says, he has no interest in drawing a convoluted, enigmatic route away from himself.
During the Question and Answer segment, Eddie responded to a question concerning the importance of criticism. He felt conflicted and ambivalent about such assessments as his experience with criticism felt 99% disappointing and unsatisfying. “Generally speaking, I really found [critique of my work] disappointing.” Peake states, “I often feel like, ‘Well, that isn’t what happened in the work or you clearly wrote that with your opinion predetermined. You just came to the show to legitimize a preconceived idea you had about the show.’ I listen very attentively to the responses.”
This brought him to self-criticize about the extent to which he is able to use queer aesthetics. “To my mind sexuality is so personal and idiosyncratic and unique to each individual, you not only have to know them at all, you have to know them really intimately, so much that they can explain to the complexities and nuances of their sexuality.”
Responding to not having dance background, Peake explains how he integrates choreography in his work. He mentions that his 15-year body of work has allowed him to develop his own language that perhaps one can characterize as being choreography - same to painting, and sculpture, and his different modes of doing exhibitions. He also believes that the art gallery space allows artists and audiences to explore different possibilities without judgement.
A member of the audience inquired about representation, reality, and self-awareness; and how Eddie perceives painting and the art gallery space. “I have a self-imposed, restricted self consciousness about [representation] sometimes,” Peake states, “and then sometimes I feel the opposite.” He continues, “[As mentioned], painting has always been my grounding, but it doesn’t mean I can’t leave it. I do as well agree that the “white cube” is a neutral ground for experimenting.”
Another person inquired about the roles of the viewers and the costumes in his performances. Eddie argues, “That in a gallery, you sort of press a button, where you’re self-aware in not being in normal space anymore you having to think and engage critically of what you’re being shown, that’s what I think the 21st century gallery is. The audience is as much on show as much as the artist or a work is in a gallery.” He continues, “Costume is a relevant aspect, it really is a struggle in my mind, in fact the reason why performers in my work are naked is more because I don’t want to deal with costumes in my performances. Because anything that you have a performer wear will signify something. I don’t want any significance in the costumes.”
Lastly, questions about his conceptualization were brought up. Reflecting on his process and the freedom he allows himself to act impulsively as to not restrict his output, Peake simplifies the intent: “I think if you make any work, any work is imbued with meaning. Any work can’t not have any meaning.”