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Garth takes the fight to London exhibition

Blackpool based artist Garth Gratrix has been invited to join artist and curator Cecilia Sjoholm in an upcoming London exhibition that brings together seven contemporary artists who all engage in defiance.

THE COMRADES THEY WERE BRAVE runs at 44 GRS Gallery in Bloomsbury from 18 March until 10 April 2022. Conceived as an homage to Edith Garrud (1872- 1971), Jiujitsu martial arts teacher to the suffragettes, it explores the theme of fighting for a cause.

In 1909, in response to increasing physical abuse by the police and opponents to their campaign for women’s right to vote, Edith Garrud began training the suffragettes in self-defence. Eventually she set up The Suffragette Bodyguard Unit, also called The Amazons or The Suffrajitsu by the press, dedicated to protecting Mrs Pankhurst and the other leaders of the movement from arrest and assault.

Cecilia Sjoholm will be joined by artists Deborah Tchoudjinoff, Garth Gratrix, Hatty Buchanan, Iain Hales, Jillian Knipe, and Laura Moreton-Griffiths to address questions such as: can we be our own bodyguards? To what level are we willing to make sacrifices? Do we fight openly in public, or do we use smokescreens and camouflage as a means of survival? Presenting work across a range of media with writing, the exhibition also interrogates the relationship between the private and the public.

Garth told us “I’m really looking forward to being in the show and working with likeminded peers in the development of new work. It’s important to be in a national conversation to maintain a full time freelance career whilst living in my hometown.”

Garth makes work that explore the slipperiness of queer lived experience. Hiding in plain sight, layers of visual and verbal modes of coding and communication exist. Influenced by ideas of queering minimalism and queer formalism, the artist combines his personal origins of growing up and living in Blackpool with his own research into the coast as queer peripheral power. He adopts his own self-imposed rule of nine inches apart together, away, repeat within the scale and intervention approach to generating site-specific and or responsive works. The rule proceeds an intimate line of questioning around manhood on a dating app.

Garth Gratrix, Pursuit of Happiness, nine inch blocks with casts of the artists knees, DODO Gallery, Brighton (2021).Image James William Murray

The Yellow block or brick holds real and fantastical relationships in art history and queer popular culture. The act of kneeling can be read into! A political act of solidarity? A romantic proposal? A moment of frivolous oral pleasure? Or all of those in the way relationships evolve over time?

Shy Girl, Wink Wink, Cheeky Felicia is one of a collection of 9 beach towels working with the rule of nine inches that follow a stripe motif and half hidden nine-inch triangle and a homage/reflection of Queer history and symbolism of shame into liberation (WW II-present day). In this exhibition the towel will be shown documented in Brighton.

Garth Gratrix, Shy Girl Flamboyant Flamingo Crown of Feathers, beachtowel on powder coated steel, installed at Abingdon Studios (2021)
The towel may be documented in Brighton, but Garth makes a point of talking about Blackpool on his travels.
 
“I seem to take Blackpool with me wherever I go as an artist. Even if I don’t mention it, someone asks about my northern accent and where I’m from and often they say “oh, right…” or  “near Manchester?” And I say yes but no but! Over many years with the work I do and the efforts of Abingdon Studios and others, we continue to support more arts professionals CV’s include Blackpool, mwahaha (insert evil cartoon villain).”
Garth Gratrix & Chester Tenneson, Rainbow the Clown, Pursuit of Happiness, installation at CBS Gallery, Liverpool (2021). Image Benjamin Nuttall

Despite the limitations of Coronavirus, Garth has maintained a busy exhibition schedule, showing work in Brighton, London, Middlesbrough, as well as ‘at home’ at Abingdon Studios which he runs – coordinating the studios and curating the project space.

Despite having the responsibility of the studios, he still finds time to focus on his own work as a contemporary artist:

“I self invest in a mentor monthly to continue to think about where my work is plan around goals I need to set. This introduced me to Cecilia and we discussed achieving Arts Council support to enable artists to be paid. It also meant support for travel and accommodation when showing in London, so that the fee I earn doesn’t just disappear overnight and I can spend my earnings from my job back in Blackpool, woop!”

THE COMRADES THEY WERE BRAVE runs at 44 GRS Gallery in Bloomsbury (44 GRS Gallery, 44 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3JL) from 18 March until 10 April 2022. Open daily 12.00 – 17.00. Admission is free.

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