‘Failure To Communicate’ was a solo exhibit held in China, April 2019. This text was written specifically for the show, and is included here for reference. It also serves as an insight to my working practice.

This exhibit represents a time capsule, bringing together for one brief moment my somewhat chaotic thoughts on our inability to communicate objectively with one another. Why do I presently spend so much time posing this question to myself? Why would anyone? It seems to me we find ourselves at a point in history where in spite of expanding technological means to communicate, we are more entrenched in rhetoric and ideology than ever. The internet has given us the age of information, though it might be argued that no one is using it.

Why do people generally allow themselves to perpetuate mythology and hearsay as if the stories contained therein were gospel? Is there perhaps something inherent to us as a species that routinely allows for the dismissal of objectivity, in favour of mimicry & fable? I’d have to say it appears unfortunately to be so, but then why?

Early on I had considered giving this exhibit the title ‘B=f [p,e]’, an equation posed by psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890) stating that behaviour is a function of the ‘person’ and their ‘environment’. I feel fortunate for my own personal experiences, which might best be described as ‘multicultural’. I’m also (thankfully) reflective enough to realise that I will always be operating at a deficit in my understanding of an ever changing world. If it forever remains impossible to be ‘all knowing, all seeing’, then what significant compromise can I/we learn to make in an effort to objectively understand one another as a collective? This question drives perhaps all of my work. Icons, ideologies, social constructs, and alternate perspectives… it’s a minefield of hard edges and soft boundaries.

Or is that vice versa? I’m not always sure.

Self Reflections aka ‘Tasty Cunt Sweets‘ (2019)
Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 150 cm

More specifically to this exhibit, in 2017 I began journaling my private thoughts by carrying a notebook with me, jotting down the first thing that came to mind in any situation of interest. What I quickly discovered was that much of these thoughts were blatantly profane, and although I’d intended to ‘out’ them in order to investigate their origin, the idea wasn’t working for me creatively, very quickly feeling too cliched. I continued journaling these thoughts regardless, but then took it further by restricting myself to just five words. This immediately became a real exercise in language, as I found myself deeply enjoying the process of finding the most succinct five word phrase to surmise my internal babble. This process gave birth to the idea of creating ‘five word prose’ pieces, forcing me in each instance to assemble the most impactful statement possible. It was at this point I noticed that by imposition of the five word restriction, I was now forced to get to the truest, most direct interpretation of my initial thoughts. This in turn forced me to slow down making a ‘final judgement’, by considering not just what did or didn’t work, but by taking away my often reflexive outbursts and instead allowing time to hone them into their final form.

This then is the problem with language as sole means of communication, allowing us to (perhaps subconsciously) attribute our own environmental biases (cultural or otherwise) to discussion as we reflexively and defensively respond to what is being said.

I intentionally chose the word ‘CUNT’ for its ability to polarise. The most fascinating thing about language for me is its cultural subjectivity. Even a brief look at the etymology of the word (cunt) highlights the obscurity of meaning in it’s use. Who ordained such power to this word, and why? Going further, is it your automatic right to be ‘offended’ in the absence of objectivity? I’d have to argue not, particularly in light of much of the current social/political debate taking place in the West present day. We are constantly witness to groups of people planting ideological flags, refusing to discuss with pure objectivity the differences of opinion they might hold. What also concerns me is the rise in (media) censorship taking place, often arbitrarily closing down anyone who might actually have something to say worth debating.

So then. ‘CUNT’. It’s a beautifully divisive word because it maintains a spectrum of meaning. Perhaps the key point in all of this I’ve been making through the work is ‘context’. Context requires objective non reflexive thought, something deeply lacking any time you accidentally find yourself browsing a comments section on the internet. Hailing from the UK I’m used to this word as both a striking insult (made predominantly towards males), and as jest between close friends. If I ever happened to call anyone a ‘clever cunt’ then it was intrinsically known that the emphasis was in fact on ‘clever’.

I’ve taken the role of devil’s advocate for this exhibit, not least by inclusion of the ‘Feminists’ piece. As English Professor Germain Greer (1939) herself argued, [cunt] ‘is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock’. This again takes us back to context… by embellishing the word ‘SOME’ across the entire exhibit, and more specifically including it within the ‘Feminists’ piece, I have introduced an adjunct to what most onlookers may have seen as the focal point. I went further by wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the exact same ‘SOME’ at the opening of this exhibit. A grand total of 71 screen printed ‘SOME’ pieces were initially present within the exhibit, beyond double the instance of the ubiquitous ‘C’ word. This clearly highlights the point of context for anyone looking beyond the superficial.

Some Cunts at ‘Failure To Communicate’ Exhibit (2019)

Something I should add with regard to the work included here was the intentional juxtaposition of the ‘Love Hearts’ inspired pieces, and the potentially confrontational ‘Feminists’ piece. Using bright popping colours and tiling the word in repetition, it’s power is subsequently diminished. In contrast the ‘Feminists’ piece took me on a deeper journey. An earlier version (complete with faux bloodied tampons) had completely obfuscated what I was attempting to invoke. Such is the power of the word that I inadvertently found myself falling victim to it. Immediately realising this I remade the piece as you see it here, a plain text message, with a minimal distress to the aforementioned ‘C’ word. The simple statement is a clear truism, and I invite anyone to dispute it without being automatically offended. Where any objective truth is concerned, less is more.

It worries me greatly that in a time where we are all of us capable of great things, too many potentially bright minds remain distracted. The causal effect of miscommunication, misinformation, and allegiances to ideologies that won’t allow for something as simple as hearing what the other side has to say.

Freedom of expression works both ways, whether or not you agree with what’s being expressed.

Some Feminists (2019)
Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 150 cm


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Thanks for reading, and until next time be well.

这次展览可以被看作是一个时间胶囊,把我对我们之间客观交流的能力(或缺乏这种能力)的一些混乱的想法简洁地汇集在一起。为什么我要花这么多时间问自己这个问题?任何人应该问自己吗?在我看来,我们正处于历史的一个阶段,在这个阶段,尽管通讯技术手段不断扩大,但我们在言辞和意识形态方面比以往任何时候都更加根深蒂固。互联网给了我们信息的时代,尽管可能有人会说没有人在使用它。我一直想知道,为什么人们总是让自己的神话和道听途说永垂不朽,仿佛其中的故事是福音。我们人类是否有一种固有的东西,习惯性地允许摒弃客观性而喜欢模仿和流言蜚语?我不得不说,这似乎是不幸的,但为什么呢?早在我考虑给这个展览命名为“B=f [p,e]”,这是心理学家Kurt Lewin(1890)提出的一个等式,说明行为是“人”及其“环境”的函数。我为自己的个人经历感到幸运,这或许可以用“多元文化”来形容。我还(谢天谢地)进行了足够的反思,意识到自己对一个不断变化的世界的理解将永远处于赤字状态。如果“全知、全见”永远不可能实现,那么我/我们能学会做出什么样的重大妥协,才能客观地理解作为一个整体,什么对彼此来说是重要的、什么应该被视为重要的? 这个问题也许驱动着我所有的工作。图标、意识形态、社会结构和不同的视角……这是一个由硬边和软边组成的雷区。或者反过来呢?我不太确定。


我特意选择了“阴部”这个词,因为它具有两极分化的能力。对我来说,语言最吸引人的地方是它纯粹的主观性。即使只是简单地看一下这个词的词源,也会发现它在使用时意义模糊。谁为这个词语设置的能量呢?为什么? 更进一步说,在缺乏客观性的情况下,“冒犯”是你的自然权利吗?我不得不说没有,尤其是考虑到当今西方社会/政治上的许多争论。郑重声明,我对任何政治辩论都不感兴趣,这对我来说纯粹是消遣。我们看到一群人插上意识形态的旗帜,拒绝完全客观地讨论他们可能拥有的不同意见。另一个让我担心的是(媒体)审查制度的兴起,经常武断地关闭任何可能真正有值得辩论的观点的人的话语权。


我有意利用这次展览中的分歧,尤其是其中的“女权主义者”作品。正如英语教授格曼·格里尔(Germain Greer, 1939)自己所说,“cunt是英语中仅存的几个具有真正震撼力的单词之一”。这又把我们带回了上下文…通过在整个展览中装饰“一些(some)”这个词,更具体地说,包括在“女权主义者”的作品中,我引入了一个附属品,大多数旁观者可能会把它视为焦点。在展览的开幕式上,我还穿了一件印有同样“SOME”字样的连帽衫。展览中最初展出了71幅丝网印刷的“SOME”作品,是普遍使用的“C”词的两倍多。这是真正的上下文所需要的重要强调词。

关于这里所包含的作品,我应该补充一点,那就是有意将《爱之心》(Love Hearts)的灵感作品和潜在的具有对抗性的《女权主义者》(fem)作品放在一起。使用明亮的荧光颜色和重复印刷的单词,它的力量随后被削弱。相比之下,《女权主义者》作品带我进入了一个更深层次的旅程,当它第一次完成后,我才意识到过多的图像隐喻混淆了我最初的字面意思。这个词的力量如此之大,以至于我无意中发现自己成了它的受害者。从那以后,我重新创作了这件作品。这个简单的陈述是一个显而易见的真理,我邀请任何人在不被下意识感到被冒犯的情况下提出异议。我也许会保留第一版作品一次来提醒我未来的作品不该被过多粉饰以至变得浑浊。就任何客观事实而言,少即是多。我最为担心的是虽然在未来我们所有的人都可以做很多伟大有意义的事,但太多潜在的聪明的头脑仍被错误的交流,错误的信息,和完全忠诚于意识形态所分心,以至完全不听信“另一边”不同的观点。言论自由是双向的,不管你是否同意别人所表达的。。

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