The UK and the rest of Europe have made great leaps forward in LGBTQ rights legislation this century, such as the repeal of Section 28, the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Despite this, queer people remain not only subject to violence, but are still so often reduced to harmful stereotypes within popular cultural representations. Particularly in conversations around trans rights, HIV/AIDS, and relationships, LGBTQ people are portrayed as immoral or untrustworthy, with the often-difficult reality of queer lives and cultures becoming increasingly abstract to mainstream audiences.
Newcastle-based artist Oliver Doe’s new exhibition, ‘Somewhere In Between’, questions the way that we see queer people, turning this abstraction on its head in order to proudly demonstrate LGBTQ bodies as a defiant site of political and cultural difference. Queer erasure is rendered into boldly coloured minimalist paintings, defiantly present in the space, and yet containing a pervading sense of absence in their reduced forms. The shapes in these images take their cues from bodily forms, viewed close up and magnified so that the actual bodies, their gender or identity, become unrecognisable. These forms then overlap, confusing the sense of positive and negative space between the figures, blurring the limits of these queer bodies further.
The colours in Doe’s works recall the oblique language of the varying pride flags, or indeed the notorious ‘hanky code’, each hue or combination implying an identity. And yet, whilst these broadly painted planes of colour are so obviously visible to the audiences, their actual meaning or coding remains implicit, and open to our interpretation. Viewers are left to cruise the colours of the gallery in search of meaning and identity amongst the abstraction.
The project will include a weekend-long public workshop run by nomadic organisation Queer Day School, giving voice to LGBTQ people who are outside of mainstream education, and helping to develop a better understanding of queer cultures through short talks and creative activities. 10% of proceeds from sales of work in this exhibition will go to akt, a charity providing safe homes and better futures for LGBTQ+ young people.
This exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as generous support from akt, Northern Pride, Orbis, and Pride Radio.