The exhibition gives insight into the artist’s practice over the last decade. Through paintings, videos, installations and photography, Road Back To Relevance brings together groups of works that have never been viewed simultaneously and reveals the complex nature of Rees’ research.
Underpinning much of Rees' conceptual body of work is an examination into aspects of Britain’s cultural and social demise since the 1970's. The exhibition reveals issues of taste in relation to class and broad political discourses surrounding the working classes, or more specifically, as described by Antonio Gramsci, the importance of 'organic intellectuals' in creating social change.
The show's title Road Back To Relevance refers to a slide presentation made by the artist in collaboration with an advertising strategist and designer. The work questions how various modes of social engagement can remain relevant today by charting the course of a specific solidarity campaign started in the 1980s, between Wales and Nicaragua. The campaign exemplifies activism before the Internet age; the central question the work poses is how pre 'clicktivist' methods of activism can help shape international solidarity.
The slideshow format is utilised once more in the work, Stimulate Surprise, 2015, which presents an advertising agency’s vision for the relaunch of a 'forgotten food', edible seaweed, and its potential to become the next consumer must-have. Stimulate Surprise is presented in conjunction with an ambitious new work titled, A Misunderstood Weed, 2016, an installation of a domestic scale seaweed farm, grown in IBC tanks. The political dimensions of Rees’ ongoing investigation into edible seaweed stems from the fact that it is considered by many scientists a viable option for helping solve global food shortages and yet remains a largely unexplored resource in the West. Ingrained in Rees’ work is the acknowledgment of the ambivalence of politics towards such suggested alternative possibilities.
The sculptural work, The Artist's Artist's Artist, 2016, a lump of plasticine, spinning on a record player, presents a wry introduction into Rees' painting works on display. Presented for the first time together, Rees' Artex paintings are exhibited along side the photographic documentation of the paintings in their owner's homes. The series of photographs Intended Circulation, 2013 - ongoing, the migration of the Artex pattern through different social signifiers, (from a council flat to collector's walls), completing the conceptual cycle of the work.
With the generous support of the Arts Council of Wales.