Renowned for his off-beat takes on sensitive subject matter, Manila-based Australian artist David Griggs mounts his debut solo show in Singapore. The exhibition is the first multi-artform presentation to feature all aspects of Griggs practice: painting, photography, installation and video. Frustrated Poverty Porn Bubble Gang offers a carnivalesque entrée to the artists unique, often macabre perspective on contemporary popular culture.
Griggss artistic practice has been richly informed by his years spent living and working in Manila. In his work, global and local pop cultures are intertwined with street and gang aesthetics, infused with a dark satire. Behind his mischievous brushstrokes lays a critique of the representation of poverty in the Philippines and its exoticisation by the media, in particular the film industry. His works portray an amalgam of local identity through the twisted lens of an exploitative spectacle.
Bubble Gang is a popular TV comedy in the Philippines. Its a show that everyone either watches or knows about, says Griggs, but really I just like the way Bubble Gang sounds, like a rainbow ghetto gang. The eponymous series of photographs in this exhibition are installed against a large, colourful backdrop - the Sunset Set -, which was a prop in one of Griggs earlier video pieces. The artist has scaled the images to the specifications of the iconic LIFE magazine, a formal provocation that questions the artistic pretensions of photojournalism.
Griggs enjoys being on the street. His approach is not invasive; he strives to find potent images of moments that catch his interest. But he is reticent about this documentation of Manilas street life. The image should carry all the information required by the casual observer. The element of chance is important - these shots are far from posed - yet they are composed, according to a formal rather than a narrative logic. Poverty itself is not depicted. Working in the slums and sketchy areas of Manila, the artist is conscious of the ethical stakes, seeing the series as a form of anti-Poverty Porn.
The Bubble Gang images are fresh, honest, and candid, yet not without a certain mystery. Griggs enjoys the role of observer, studying human behaviour in the personal and communal situations around him, and the social and political structures that cannot be separated from them. I shoot photographs the same way I compose a painting, he says, letting my gut instinct control the composition, the only difference being that with photography I have to make that decision very fast.
The two large paintings in the exhibition make playful reference to icons of white Anglo-American culture. A faux naïf appropriation of the image of Freddy Krueger pokes sardonic fun at the art worlds craving for a good fable. Griggs suggests that in our state of visual saturation we are all mirrors of American culture in some way, whether we like it or not. But any pathos is in turn submerged in his bright, candy-like palette. He takes on contradictions that are latent in our environment - between reality and fiction, history and utopia, particularities and stereotypes.
Frustrated Poverty Porn Bubble Gang marks the first time all aspects of Griggs practice - painting, digital video and photography - have been shown together. His 2013 video WHERES FRANCIS? sends up the film industry. Inspired by the making of Francis Ford Coppolas 1979 war epic, Apocalypse Now, set in Vietnam but filmed and produced in the Philippines. Shot in Manila, Griggs video revolves around two film extras, buried in the ground up to their necks. Abandoned by their director, the two engage in a nonsensical dialogue.
This attraction to the grim side of life informs much of Griggs work. As an alien from a lucky country finding his way in the Philippines, he is both fascinated and repulsed by the contemporary world, a world ceaselessly defiling and restoring what it professes to hold sacred.
David Griggs (b. 1975, Sydney) is a contemporary artist based in Manila, Philippines. He graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney in 1999 and an a Master of Fine Arts (Sculpture), College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales in 2007. In 2013 he was a finalist for the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as well as for The University of Queensland National Self Portrait Prize. His work has been shown extensively in Australia and placed in renowned collections such as the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and the Joyce Nissan Collection, Melbourne, amongst others. His most recent exhibitions include Future Primitive at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, and Marley Dawson, David Griggs and TV Moore, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney in 2013.
The exhibition is on view at Future Perfect
until June 23, 2014.