Jonathan Meades is the author and performer of many television films. He has written journalism,fiction, essays, squibs and diatribes.
Ape Forgets Medication is his first exhibition. The work it comprised is, like his prose, generally maximalist. It is also, no doubt, quite meaningless. He has a horror of explanation and an even greater one of manifestos, the artless moron’s medium of choice. Still, any plausible explanation of what it’s ‘about’ will be grudgingly rewarded.
Treyf means that which is not kosher. Figuratively it signifies impurity – and Meades’s work in every medium is deliberately impure. The title of his box of postcards Pidgin Snaps was explicit. So too that of his record Pedigree Mongrel.
He combines contradictory elements, he fuses opposing idioms, he conjures a rapprochement between apparently antagonistic precursors.
“Does he want to be Geoffrey Hill or Benny Hill?” “He wants to be their gruesome lovechild.”
There is no point in imitating, say, Raymond Chandler. But imitate Chandler and Housman together and you might be on to something. Throw in a soupçon of Derek and Clive whilst humming Beethoven’s op 130…. now you’re cooking with gas.
Artknack evidently suggests: art; nicknack – a probably worthless trinket, stolen; knack – atricksy, meretricious facility; arnaque – French for a scam.
Meades’s methods are several and rigorously inauthentic. Painting with numerous tools – glib fists, mops, squeegees, sponges, even brushes; he employs froissage (a technique nicked from Ladislas Kijno), hyper-realist photography, digital manipulation, collage and, above all, chance. When a work is begun there is seldom any conception of where it will lead.
The aleatory is all: thus he burns and dowses paintings, shoots from the driver’s seat inside car washes, snaps coloured oils and coloured waters of differing viscosities in plastic bags of differing opacities, swings the camera through the air, clicks without looking, does close- ups of lichen and flint, fashions gehries from aluminium foil, smears squid ink on marble…. Everything goes so long as it is random and might lead anywhere. It is the very opposite of how he writes –fretfully, costively, and with a willingness to starve to death of syphilis in a garret for the sake of an adverb.
The works range from the stubbornly monochrome to the tartily gaudy, from myth to abstraction, from the gutter to the dodgily numinous, from domestic proportions to XXXXXL.
They have all been made in conjunction with Andrew Curtis, Edd Pearman and Greg Day of Coriander/Curwen Studios and International Lawns’s Pantheist Hit Squad.