12 October 2016- Brad Downey, Visiting Artist Talk, UWE, Bower Ashton.
I have become institutionalised! In the way that I am now accustomed to professional academic talks, especially the scientific ones. In this talk I wished that he was introduced to us with a little more information about his background. He also didn’t talk about his education, shows, and residencies, only just how prolific he was via Instagram. Perhaps a failing on my part for not doing research about him prior to the talk. But he is incredibly prolific, and this vigour makes up for what I felt was missing at the start. I felt sympathetic exhaustion at the end of his talk.
I can see that his work would have appeal for its sense of humour and courageousness. But, the way that he described his large family with no artistic roots, made it seem like he was some sort of punk American folk artist. But wait a second, he went to Pratt in New York for his undergrad, one of the best art schools in the US, and then on to Slade in London. Is the clever in his work, something that was taught or had it been molded?
To me, the piece that stood out the most was “Mit allen Wassern Gewaschen” or in English “To be washed with all waters” which was made by attaching wet bars of soap to towels and letting them dry. These pieces were included in “Essentials” at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and showed a slightly different Brad Downey. More mature, but still clever, along with his known aesthetic that makes you smile, until you recognise that he is referencing soap made from human corpses. I think he likes to teeter on the taboo. Simple ideas, until you think about them for a little longer, and you soon catch-on that there is something highly crafted beneath the veneer surface.
What I admire the most, is his use of tomfoolery or shenanigans in his work. I wish I could do this. I gravitate towards the serious, which can be a bit of a bore. We need more laughter and fun, even when tackling the difficult.