Erupting phallic fungus and leather body straps: comptemporary art in Hackney



A new exhibition uses images of phallic shaped mushrooms and Dr Marten’s boots to examine aspects of gay sex culture in society.

‘Phallus Impudicus’  by Joseph Ridgeon, a graduate of Goldsmiths, at Dye House 451 in Hackney Wick, features an array of clay sculptures and pencil drawings, moodily lit within an installation that divides the lofty gallery space into smaller areas.

The exhibition title is Latin for the colloquially known common stinkhorn, a foul-smelling mushroom that is often found growing in woodlands.

Ridgeon, 28, who graduated from Goldsmiths last year with a Masters in Fine Art, employs the latent symbolism of an erupting phallic fungus to make comment on gay sex culture in the UK.

The exhibition both celebrates and questions the position of gay sex culture within contemporary art practice, creating a dialogue around the conflicting normalisation and marginalisation of certain aspects.

Ridgeon says: “I attempt to break from an aesthetic homogeneity of a more visible contemporary art culture. It is only by attempting this break that awareness of one’s implicitness in a system of normalisation pulls to the fore what queer isn’t.”

In the exhibition, a deteriorating clay sculpture of a tree branch lays on the floor by the entrance. Elsewhere, other clay sculptures depict iconic gay fashion accessories, like leather body straps and Dr. Martens boots. The sculptures are void of colour or glaze, appearing to have been drained of their original life.

Sprouting from the fence-like divides that enclose the viewer’s experience are clusters of fungi anuses, made from self-drying clay and oil paint.

Ridgeon says: “Drawing is the most direct way for me to process the idea of desire or intrigue in my work. Essentially, it is the most unfiltered part of my practice. When kids see something they like they draw it, and I don’t think I ever moved on from that.”

Dye House 451 is a new independent gallery near the Olympic Park on Dye House Lane. The gallery was successful in recently crowdsourcing funds to support emerging artists by offering solo exhibitions for up to a month.

Gallery Director Max Atkins said: “We’re really pleased with what Joe has done. I think it’s one of our strongest shows to date.”

‘Phallus Impudicus’ is open until December 12.

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