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Review: No Pain No Gain at SEE

There is great strength in restraint. The art works on display in the show curated by SEE Organisation, which is currently taking over Blackpool’s Supercollider space, are just that – restrained. The simplicity of allowing the work to do the talking without all the accompanying whistles and bells conveys a quiet confidence in both the work and the artist’s faith in what he is saying.

SEE have been coming to the fore of late; symposiums, exhibitions, workshops and training seminars, and the ever popular sociological cinema events, helping to propagate SEE’s aims. SEE is an innovative Blackpool based organisation that uses the arts and culture as a platform to explore social issues and subjects; in doing so, their aim is to equip people with the skills and knowledge to navigate contemporary society in an informed, positive, productive and healthy way. SEE’s founder, Sophie Fuce, is a sociologist first and foremost, so the organisation’s events and activities are always socially engaged and offer food for thought.

SEE’s use of Supercollider for its arts investment is a good match; Supercollider is renowned for its challenging but rewarding programme, and so felt like a perfect venue for SEE to present international artist Brian J Morrison’s latest show No Pain No Gain!!!.

The previous show at Supercollider was, for me, excellent as ever, but with its frantic swinging heads and alcoholic fountains the space felt a little overused and there was limited capacity to experience the work. Conversely, the four pieces that Brian J Morrison has brought to the space are wholly responsive to the site, making use of the starkness of the newly pristine white walls. It’s clear that both Brian as the artist and SEE as the curator have considered the viewing arena in relation to the work.

The four pieces, each referencing the aspirations of the male body builder are each eclectically differing to the next but all working in concert to the overall thematic intentions of the artist’s aim, which is – “To scrutinise the institutional forces at play within this faction ofย  masculinity…Each piece presents the contradicted duality of power and fragility, with a focus on superficial strength”.

Morrison’s intention with No Pain No Gain!!! is physically and conceptually realised in each individual work:
1- All your hopes and dreams: A wooden structure based on elements of both extreme gym equipment and a medieval torture device. The work really gives a sense that in the aims to achieve ‘ultimate masculine perfection’ the destruction and abuse of the body is necessary.
2- Man of iron: A golden Adonis, arms folded in heroic pose, is constructed from MDF and printed as a bust.ย  The monumental form, almost like a Greek god, is of Joe Weider, a man well known to anyone who might have looked through any bodybuilding magazine from the 80s, a modern Charles Atlas figure, bring to mind those ‘You too can have a body like mine’ adverts that promised the ability to stop the bully kicking sand into your face on the beach.
3- Untitled: A wall based text piece that sums up the whole enterprise of body building and its outrageous aims, “Six months from today you will be built up or burned out,” it reads.
4- Breaking point: A shredding picture of a ‘perfect’ male body hanging from a rod, need I say more?

SEE has curated a brave show that contributes nicely to their overall agenda and programme. Having delivered a number of exhibitions that explore issues affecting girls and women, No Pain No Gain!!! is an interesting look at gender roles and the related physical expectations affecting men.seeorg_logo-01

Morrison, through his work, adeptly asks uncomfortable questions about what we desire and how we perceive our gendered identities. Unobtainable body image is thrown into sharp focus and we are left with a conceptually and visually sharp gallery experience that will sit with us for longer than we may be comfortable.

The show runs until May 3 at Supercollider Contemporary Art Projects. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday 12-5pm. For more information on SEE’s programme, please visit www.see-org.com or email [email protected]

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