Stephen Gibbs

Northumbria University at Newcastle : BA Fine Art

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Waygood Mushroom1: Installation, Latex
The Re-Classification of the Weed: Light Installation, Electronics, Natural Materials
Dreaming of Kachadourian: Oil on Canvas
Stupid Blue Compass: Acrylic on Canvas, Natural Materials
Hamstley Mushrooms: Colour Photograph
Waygood Mushrooms: Colour Photograph
Mushroom for a Film1: Digital Image Mushroom for a Film2: Digital Image
Mushroom for a Film3: Digital Image Mushroom for a Film4: Digital Image

Artist Statement:

My practice explores ways in which we view nature through culture. My main aim is to show how cultural understanding shapes a perception of nature. I believe that society has an impact on the way in which we process our thoughts.
This passage by Swedish Artist Olafur Eliasson helps sum up how what we see in nature is moulded by what we learn in society, “Looking at nature, I find nothing… only my own relationship to the spaces, or aspects of my relationship to them. We see nature with cultivated eyes. Again, there is no truthful nature, there is only your and my construct of such. Just by looking at nature, we cultivate it into an image. You could call that image a landscape”.
While I am attempting to portray a message of an untruthful nature, I also want to touch on a message of an untruthful society, stemming from a capitalist culture. A small example of this would be the food industry and the way in which certain ingredients are substituted for cheaper ones, resulting in all kinds of problems. There are certain sugar substitutes being used by the fast food industry, which apparently cause people eating them to store carbohydrates, which in turn is turned into fat within the body, i.e. obesity.
An earlier photographic piece I produced ‘Mushrooms for a Film’, originated from the influences of Nina Katchadourian and Samantha Clark. I think this work comes from a kind of drug-induced hallucination of myth, or an idea of a magical place we all secretly believe in. I like the idea of lepricorns, fairies, magical tales that were told to us as youngsters, as invented stories to scare, educate or excite us. I think these mushrooms represent any doubt we have about our existence or any reasons we have for wanting more. These mushrooms need not represent something solid, but an idea of doubt and reflection.
Another previous piece of work I have produced is ‘Field of Mushrooms’, which was a blanket of mushroom replicas cast from wax models and made in sulphur yellow latex. The aim of these mushrooms was to mimic nature and attempt to baffle the viewer at first glance, with the realism of the piece. Examined up close it was be possible to make out that they have been man made and this was deliberately noticeable. A kind of disguised fungus, as a lot of unpleasant aspects in society disguise themselves, in this modern world. Which again brings us back around to the point I made before about the Capitalist food companies.
Liminality is also an important aspect to my work, this idea of being in between something. Whether it is in between states of mind, idea’s, thoughts, or even more literally, in between places. I want my work to play on the idea of being in between nature and culture, a confused hallucinatory and unknown place.
I now hope to bring technology into my nature related works, as nature is no longer a natural thing anymore. We live a world where nature and culture have become barely distinguishable. Take Dolly the Scottish sheep for example and her short life through the cloning process. Also, we live in an age when it no longer takes ‘God’ to make a tree. We have biotechnology and genetic engineering.
My most recent work (The Re-classification of the Weed) demonstrates the uneasy relationship between nature and contemporary society, the way in which certain aspects of nature are cast down, discarded and destroyed. The piece comprises of what might be considered a backwards system. A mass of potatoes are harvested of all energy through electrical connections and converted to light. The social standing of the flower is lowered beneath the Potato, as it becomes a slave in which to help light pass from Potato to Potato. I find it interesting the way in which these two aspects of nature oppose one another, like beauty and the beast. This piece has massive energy wastage, not only do the potatoes become a very inefficient energy source (although environmentally sound) but the amount of human energy being used to keep the whole system running might be considered to be unrealistic and uneconomical. This piece along with most of my other work talks about ethics, morals and politics.

Stephen Gibbs



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