Testing Media: Mel Brimfield
Mel Brimfield’s current showcase of work in the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University, presents a diverse and captivating exhibition of work from the past five years, using humour as a powerful device in engaging its audience. In creating comical parallel realities of artists, such as Pollock, Moore and Krasner, she creates work which is ‘as slippery and gaseous as the history of performance art’ itself.
Her huge emphasis on delivering humour is visible throughout the exhibition, ranging from bizarre video installations to quirky comic book prints and cleverly poised photography. It is almost impossible to deny that the bizarre, eclectic mélange of audio emerging from the gallery, including Pollock’s hysterical monologue and Willy Little’s eccentric variety, creates an intriguing insight into the huge jocularity within. In using playful comicality as a device, Brimfield takes advantage of The Guerrilla Girls’ belief that ‘humor gets people involved. It's an effective weapon.’
The artist also incorporates a huge use of popular culture in a way which allows the work to become enormously accessible. Her print The Curse of Pygmalion, possesses all the intrigue and allure of an old comic book or film-style poster, as well as references to horror film-stars, Vincent Price and Elsa Lancaster. Brimfield’s comedy doesn’t fail to be present again, in references to Pygmalion’s ‘monstrous bulk’, illustrated by the amusing Frankensteinian take on a Moore sculpture. The unmistakable resemblance to his Reclining Figure 1929 succeeds in creating a discrete, light-hearted tease of his Yucatan-inspired sculptures, detectable for the more knowledgeable of Moore’s work.
The hardship of women in the art world is something also featured in the practice of Brimfield. In the video installation, Clement Greenberg - Lee Krasner = Jackson Pollock, the viewer experiences an intimate counsellor-like position onto which a dumpy, blowsily portrayed Krasner unburdens her daily domestic adversity suffered, whilst supporting Pollock’s erratic and unstable character. Brimfield’s criticises the discrimination of women in the very chauvinistic 1940’s Abstract Expressionism movement, through references to Greenberg’s misogyny. However, Krasner’s light-hearted, chuckling portrayal allows her criticism to be only subtly present beneath the comedic overtones of her work.
Overall, has Brimfield presented us with an immensely entertaining array of work, whose humourous and theatrical nature allows it to possess a captivating attraction, which is assessable to a wide audience of varying cultural and artistic awareness.
Ella Breese, Fine Art student, 2014.
Testing Media: Mel Brimfield will be open until 6th December 2014