Exploring Queerness with Artists Jez Dolan and Garth Gratrix

How do you make a Queer ritual? is an exhibition by artists Jez Dolan and Garth Gratrix that explores the intersections and connections between Queerness and ritualistic practices, and is a celebration of Queer identity. The exhibition has created a welcoming and inclusive space for all visitors and is open to the public from Thursday 26th October to Friday 8th December 2023. In this blog, Catherine Brabin reflects on the installation of the exhibition this week. Catherine is working with Lancaster Arts as part of our BRIDGES Bursary programme and has spent time with the artists, assisting with the installation and documenting its development. 

Posted on 6th Dec, 2023

A zen garden of sand and gravel and a blue tree in an art gallery with one yellow and white striped wall

How do you make a Queer ritual? is the realisation of the artists’ explorations during a joint residency with Lancaster Arts in 2022: Jacuzzi Conversations. Over a week Jez and Garth considered how their work could respond to the theme of Ritual. They contemplated ideas with one another and visitors to the Peter Scott Gallery, landing on the pivotal question of ‘How do you make a Queer ritual?’. 

This is not an exhibition in which Jez and Garth tell gallery visitors what a Queer ritual is, but instead use their artwork to explore potential answers. The pair arrived at the gallery with a surplus of amazing creations and materials, not knowing precisely what would end up in the final display, and then analysed how each piece could interact with the next and so fulfil the theme.  

As the artists themselves are experimenting with the idea of what a Queer ritual could look like, audiences will not be presented with a pre-defined demonstration of one. The exhibition is open to interpretation, and equally open to anyone from any walk of life. It allows for individual readings and reflections, and acknowledges Queer ritual as something that is perpetually evolving, As Garth says, ‘Art often speaks for itself and may not need to be ‘read’ into, but where queerness is involved, there is room for audiences to make a variety of different readings.’ 

Over their three-day installation, Jez and Garth have transformed the Peter Scott Gallery. Sections of the gallery walls have been painted in iconic beach towel inspired stripes. A zen garden has been created using tree branches, which have been painted bright blue, of course. The gallery is no longer just a place to showcase art, but an inclusive space for visitors to interact with, and think about Queer ritual. Perhaps, by kneeling on a floor cushion or indulging in a moment of pause in the zen garden, you could gain a window into the physicality of such a ritual.  

Queer Ritual 71

How do you make a Queer ritual also plays with revelation and concealment. With names like ‘Peekaboo’ and ‘Nectar of the Goddess’, the wall paint directly reflects the frolic and fancy which queerness can inspire. Projections show coy figures on the beach, teasing us from behind a series of beach towels which never seem to run short of supply. The sensory experience of the exhibition is heightened through soundscapes with ambiguous, perhaps eery, refrains. The framed artworks play with lines of sight; one must journey upstairs to get a clear view of the frames that tantalise those on the ground floor from above. In this game of hide and seek, Jez and Garth continue to hint at a proposal for Queer ritual without providing a definitive outcome. It is for the viewer to come to their own conclusions, and visitors are invited to contribute their own thoughts and feelings at the exhibition.  

About the Artists  

Jez Dolan is an artist living and working in Manchester. His practice underlines the intersections between queerness, sexuality, identity, and memory. He works across artforms including drawing, film, printmaking, painting, performance and theatre. His website can be found here. 

Garth Gratrix lives and works in Blackpool and is the founder of the Abingdon Studios. Gratrix makes work centred around the idea of formal frolic, exploring space, relational aesthetics and dynamics. His website is linked here. 

a man looking at artworks on a gallery wall