New large-scale charcoal works from Liam Gerrard demonstrate the artist’s continued scrutiny of startling subjects; employing humour, pastiche and irreverence to construct confronting images and assemblages.
Gerrard’s works are technically faultless and painstakingly realised, regardless of subject-matter which ranges from bizarre to quietly gruesome. Through these works, Gerrard calls attention to the buried absurdities of contemporary and historical conceptions of beauty; thus his work may be seen as a subversive exploration of the aesthetic hierarchies of Western art and wider society.
Gerrard’s stark, realistic style encourages viewers to reflect on the motives behind his compositions, whether social, political or simply formal. By selecting banal and sometimes marginalised subjects, figures deemed ugly or unworthy of attention, Gerrard forces the viewer to consider their own preconceptions about the value of beauty, the nature of aesthetic ideals and the equality of society.
Gerrard’s compositions are relatively simple—isolated heads or objects against a white background—creating a necessary distance from any immediate context. By abstracting the figures in this way, Gerrard allows the viewer to reconsider his subjects outside of their usual situations, reconfiguring their aesthetic value. He is also resistant to attempts to endow his figures with complex psychologies; facial expressions are arbitrary and ambiguous, though generally chosen for their unconventional qualities.
The contextual and emotional distance in these works creates an ambiguity in meaning, preventing them from ever becoming overtly ideological—though Gerrard’s choice in subject matter may sometimes be seen to gesture toward a political position, an apolitical façade is maintained. Gerrard’s disinclination to political posturing means that these drawings may be viewed in purely formal terms and his talent for portraiture makes such a reading extremely rewarding. Ultimately, the primacy of the image itself outweighs all other concerns.
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