Exhibition

Alex Xerri | PrehistoryTV

16 Nov 2018 – 15 Dec 2018

Event times

12-5pm Friday & Saturdays

Cost of entry

Free

Trade

Nottingham, United Kingdom

Address

Travel Information

  • Nearest station - Nottingham

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I'm curious where the subjects in your work comes from, could you explain a bit about these pre-historic TVs?

About

I’m a huge fan of pre-2000s wildlife documentaries, especially dinosaur documentaries. There are some really great series (like Walking With Dinosaurs for example) that are still engaging and captivating today. However some of the earlier ones are a bit funny because it’s speedy stop-motion animation with rubber dinosaurs. I’m also into 1990s American cartoons because of their vibrant colour palettes, wobbly lines and gritty textures that can only be achieved with analogue animation technology. Think early Simpsons, Duckman, Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold and early Beavis and Butthead to name a few. A lot of my work is set in the Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous eras and some paintings are about looking back to those eras, via TV.

I guess there is something peculiar about the need to have a recent technology to look back in time, like the TV is the main conduit for our imagination about that era? Or perhaps each representation of Dinosaurs is stuck in a particular era - like you say stop motion or more recent CGI things. I guess there is a humour in knowing that each representation of dinosaurs is wrong, we occasionally find out what colour a particular dinosaur is and that changes that dinosaur in our collective imagination forever and sets previous versions as just one in a history of wonky representations. I've gone off a bit there but is that what you mean when you say your work is about looking back via TV? 

Nature magazines and books provide an insight to the prehistoric as well, but the medium of TV gives it life, atmosphere and narrative. Over time our imagination about prehistory eras changes as we look back and learn more. The dinosaurs evolved in their own time and they evolve again with each newer documentary. My favourite dinosaurs are 1980s and 1990s representations. I’m nostalgic for the retro reptilian Godzilla-esque dinosaurs that I grew up watching on TV when I was a kid. The current day feathered representations make my younger image of dinosaurs obsolete. When using TV as a lens to certain times and places, you can choose when to look back and what version of dinosaurs you want to see depending on the year a documentary was released.

You mention documentaries and cartoons, I guess there is something in a more hand-drawn style that makes it appealing to paint? What's your thoughts on that?  
 

Absolutely! A lot of the American cartoons I grew up watching in Australia in the 1990s all had their own unique style and I guess the rough and wobbling traditional animation subconsciously appealed to me as a painter. I utilise a range of thick mediums to give my work different textures and surface grit.

  

There is also an apocalyptic theme with the cars crashing and the exploding volcanos what’s your interest there? Which is a different strain/era to the other works. Can you talk more about those? I read the cars as being like 1950/60s sort of shapes, that wide and boxy look. 

The exploding volcanoes and flame paintings are all based on exploring locations with active volcanoes, which often have to be reached by long car journeys on remote and empty roads. My favourite cars are all long and boxy sedans, very similar to the cars on Seinfeld and 1980s movies. I like to make work that captures the feeling of exciting high-speed car chase scenes from 1980s movies, but with a connection to landscape and animals.

Through our conversations you've mentioned that some of the works don't last that long, like the fabrics and the foams are very temporary. Is this because its important to achieve a particular aesthetic, and those materials happen to degrade quickly? 

Yes unfortunately a small number of early works have slowly crackled. That was due to trialing different combinations and ratios of mediums in the paint, however this is all ironed out now. Every roll of foam is speckled and unique, and I’ve learned which ones last and which ones don’t depending on what each roll contains. I like the aesthetic of the foam and I’ve been working on ways to preserve it and make it more archival so that it lasts if I choose to use it in a work.

I feel like there is also a mystic quality to the work that perhaps we've not really touched on, like each of these elements have a transformational quality, I love the cars with the snake tongues hanging out and the rainbows at night, I also imagine because a car with a snake tongue permits anything into its 'world' that the cars have also been transported into prehistoric times. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is a magic quality to the combination of different images in the works that we shouldn't miss when talking about it. For instance there is something peculiar if you imagine Dinosaurs, TVs, Cars (with snake tongues), rainbows and Volcanos existing all at the same time. I guess that is the beauty of Jurassic Park too, the clash of the hi-tech science and the low-tech caveman feel of being chased by a large beast? 

Yeah it really has a similar clash to Jurassic Park by having all of these elements existing in the same world. I like the idea of creating tension with time; paintings set in the prehistoric, and paintings looking back on the prehistoric. And another tension between subject matter rooted in research and palaeontology contrasted with low-tech elements. It all began with exploration to interesting land forms and spending a lot of time in the great outdoors, then the works expanded into gathering continually expanding research and building my own landscapes through painting. I like that people find a magic quality or vibe in the work's subject matter.

I'd be interested in reflecting on how the work might resinate in Australia where you have 1000s miles of dramatic and often brutal landscapes and I'm curious to see how the work might feel in Nottingham, our landscape here can be dramatic but in a completely different way - this is more a musing rather than a question, so have you had any thoughts on that in terms of what importing the work to the UK might do to it? Or on the other hand is there anything distinctly Australian about the work, or any references that people in the UK would miss that we should expand upon? 

I’m not so sure that my work resonates with Australian landscape in terms of objects in the works, however I always mix a lot of wonderful greens that closely match the colours of the Australian bush landscape, so my palette sometimes feels very Australian. My work has a distinct lo-fi vibe that resonates with the pre-millennium Australian analogue TV experience, which was a varied mix of Australian, English and American shows broadcast on 5 channels. I haven’t been to the UK before and I don’t know a lot about the landscape, but I’ll be exploring a lot of it very soon. I’m interested to see how my work fits and feels in Nottingham.

Curators

Bruce Asbestos

Bruce Asbestos

Exhibiting artists

Alex Xerri

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