As a founder member of the Gay and Lesbian Artists group at Brixton Art Gallery in 1983 I recorded the night life of 1980s gay liberation and the painful epoch of loss during the AIDS crisis. This was recently curated as a project to document the group in the Tate Gallery Archive. The era of heady politics and the virus gave my work a compelling urgency and this was seen via my previous four solo exhibitions (Nightlife, Unstill Lives, Headstrong & Telling Tales and Sex & Dancing).
As an activist I had been actively involved with THT and then, after my own HIV diagnosis in 1991, with the self-help group Body Positive. Successful treatment of HIV and subsequent equality victories left many long term survivors curiously adrift. The causes that had motivated lives (and my art) dissipated, leaving many beached, bewildered and isolated. I deliberately turned away in search of self-preservation: 15 years after my first friend died of AIDS, drained emotionally and recognizing my own mental health was damaged, I left London, burnt-out and creatively blocked.
This exhibition, included sculpture, paintings and photography and began with ‘Trophonius Oracle’, an installation of twenty boxed figures made over time to commemorate 25 people he knew who died of AIDS. A private piece, an attempt to hold on to memory, they were displayed together publicly for only the third time. People represented included the artists Derek Jarman, Mario Dubsky and Robert Mapplethorpe but also ordinary guys I knew who died before their time. Made as a kind of private promise to remember, they were a point of departure for the journey to recovery delineated in the works that followed.
Now the exhibition has finished I have added more images of the works in the gallery below, they focus on head shaped sculptures, in many cases literally enabling the viewer to look inside my own headspace. There are also buildings including two large elaborately furnished and illuminated dolls houses that, with others address biographical stories. Visitors were invited on a journey of interior retreat and reinvention. Something new from something old emerges, ending in something blue – not sadness but the wings of iridescent butterflies.
The Friendship section of the exhibition had works by photographers David Klinkert and Robert Taylor which are seen in the images in this gallery.