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Ceri Hand Gallery, London
8 October - 3 November 2012
Reviewed by: Anna McNay »
As Ceri Hand’s third exhibition in London, albeit in a temporary space before moving into her permanent Fitzrovia gallery in spring 2013, she is proud to welcome Bedwyr Williams, the polymath artist-cum-stand-up-comedian who will represent Wales at the Venice Biennale 2013. Anyone brave enough to venture to Covent Garden’s Monmouth Street, despite the advertising information in the form of a letter from Williams threatening to “make you eat all of your bloody dental floss from the bin,” “bop you on your bonce with your shower head until a cartoon lump forms,” and “hang you on your own back fence like a Yule wreath,” will be greeted by an eclectic mixture of photography, sculpture, film work and drawings, and, if lucky, a performance from the man himself.
Words are a key part of Williams’ work, and titles vary from straightforward and obvious descriptions, to comical, clever puns and, on occasion, scarcely veiled threats. Don’t Ever Open My Mail Again (2012), for example, consists of three circular singed doormats, and Clocsiwr (2012) (Welsh for “clogs”) displays a pair of wooden-soled white trainers on a plinth. For Bad News (2012), two black nylon kites flutter in the breeze of an electric fan, foreboding and ominous, like the sails on the ship in the tragic legend of Tristan and Iseult, whilst, on a lighter note, Research Fellow (2012) consists of a door with Williams’ name, hanging on the wall above the staircase, suggesting perhaps the nature of how he sees his own oeuvre.
In a similar vein, The Teacher (2012) sets up an imaginary dialogue between a large and a small hammer, the former with its head slightly tilted to look down upon its protégé, whilst Artist Artist (2012) performs a real time one interaction between two speaker boxes, each uttering and echoing the title at seemingly random points in time.
Williams’ favourite work in the show is OO/HO (2012), a miniature model lamp post, lying on its side in a glass box. Making it made him sad, he says, as it is so pathetic! He is also fond of The Burn (2012), however, a shell encrusted BBQ, like a large-scale version of the trinket boxes available in all kitsch seaside souvenir shops. This one is, quite simply, “good fun”.
Living in a small village in North Wales, Williams is the first to confess that most people there, including his partner, probably think he’s a “weirdo”. He doesn’t think so, himself, however. After looking around the exhibition, hearing a performance reading requiring me to imagine myself a mole, and having a brief face-to-face conversation, I remain inconclusive as to my own view. One thing is for sure: he is not your run of the mill artist! To get a taste of what is to come on a larger scale in Venice next summer, and to decide for yourself, take a trip down Monmouth Street, but be careful – you were warned!
Art writer and researcher based in London.
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