Magda Archer: Crazy Mad
Where: The Cornerhouse, Oxford Road
With a solo painting show entitled 'Magda Archer: Crazy Mad', the key to preparation is to perceive the unperceived. The blurb suggested a concoction of 1950s paraphernalia, with sections including 'I hate art' and a method of paining so painstaking, it made the artists eyes water. Rather than just peruse the paintings when the exhibition opened 26 June, I needed answers, a reason for this kaleidoscope of disparity. Meeting British artist Archer and Curator Mike Chavez Dawson on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, I ventured anxiously, to the second floor of the iconic Cornerhouse.
With a brief introduction by Dawson, citing philosopher Umberto Eco and artist Daniel Burren to explain the logic behind his presentation, we piled into a treasure trove of kitsch clutter that a seasoned hoarder would be proud of. Noting this uncanny replica of her studio was infact merely 5% of its true capacity, we were transported to the chaotic car-boot nirvana of Archers creative process. From a wall of Pez's, to an effigy of Christ in glitter, Archer taps into reviving memories, though not necessarily her own. Demonstrating that adults, though discard their childhoods, remain able to escape to their care-free youth via the medium of seemingly insignificant items - junk. A theatrical sight to behold, her stimuli accompanied by aptly eclectic tunes, unearthed our own childish frivolous excitement as to what lay behind the studio door, past the 'Tree of Happiness'.
Gushing at the song greeting us on entering the gallery, Archer set the tone for the tour. Her own cover version of 'Sugar Town' (by Nancy Sinatra, written by Lee Hazlewood in 1967) rendered the room, 'I want to live there, it disregards the humdrum of every day melancholy'.
Navigating the gallery, clusters of her works emerged. Narrative chapters that echoed a lack of excess and overproduction by the revealing of the direct links between her inspiration and artistic result. On a thrift shop frequency the viewer is empowered, and allowed to escape into the sphere of imagination.
From the random connections of 'text me, yeah' to the cemented themes of 'girls with names' Archer takes the viewer on a journey, on a visual and personal level, simulating our verve through cognitive reaction and she endeavours to circumnavigate the hidden.
Despite sounding a rollercoaster of psychedelic sickly sweet palettes and sporadic emotional epiphany's, Dawson summed up the exhibition perfectly with an a capella version of Shirley Ellis' Clapping Song (depicted in the 3.6.9 pieces); Archer wished to erase the disparity between what the work is and what is perceived 'there is no big secret'.
Yes, it was 'Crazy Mad', yet also a true voyage of discovery that can be as abstruse or as superficial as you wish to make it. Highly recommended.
Many of the pieces are now for sale within the exhibition. Contact Cornerhouse for details.