25 November 2016 – 7 January 2017
White Cube presented an exhibition of new work by British artist Eddie Peake. This is Peake’s first exhibition in Hong Kong and included new paintings, sculpture and installation.
Peake describes himself as a ‘producer’ of his multi-disciplinary work, which includes performance, film, photography, painting, sculpture and installation. Whether orchestrating performances with many participants, or creating studio based sculpture and painting, the resulting work is intended to have a powerfully visceral impact on the viewer. Peake openly embraces the erotic and the sexualised as well as the raw energy of contemporary urban life. Incorporating music, dance and elements of popular culture, his work draws equally on ‘high’ culture, referencing themes as diverse as Renaissance sculpture and Modernist architecture.
For this exhibition, Peake produced four new groups of work: the first is a series of abstract canvases in which spray-painted, acid-coloured lines create overlapping misaligned frames within the picture. Leaving the centre white, the empty space or void at their heart can be read in different ways: an area of possibility, like an empty cinema screen waiting for the projection to start; a material or existential vacuum; or even as a proxy for the ultimate infinite void – death.
A second group of paintings is equally charged and vibrant in colour, but these are populated by schematic and cartoon figures. In these works there is an undercurrent of darker themes of depression and psychosis, indicating the point at which exuberance tips into mania. One character, a mysterious, muscular, cartoon faun holds up a crystal ball, offering-up to the viewer a ‘painting-within-the-painting’ of images of autobiographical significance. For the artist, the faun represents an alter-ego; a manic, playful anarchic character that stands in as narrator, choreographer and witness.
In the centre of the gallery, a wall with smashed apertures framed a view of the gallery beyond, a device employed by the artist in past installations both to choreograph the movement of visitors and to create a tantalising sense of partial disclosure. Behind this, a billboard-sized photograph of a statuesque nude, looking at a computer screen, entirely covers the wall. Clearly engaged in looking for her own pleasure, the work draws the audience in as voyeur, implicating both viewer and subject in a complex and conscious act. In an interview for The White Review, Peake said: ‘I am interested in control, manipulation, and employing devices in the work that might seem to be doing that to its audience whilst also exposing that it is trying to do that. […] There’s a sort of mirroring going on, so that in effect the subject matter has to be you, the viewer.’ The model appears again, as does the artist himself, in a series of works where photographs are mounted onto panels bearing a form of sculptural drawing, with lines routed into the material and partially filled with coloured resin.
Peake’s newest sculptures are of larger than life size gesturing female hands. The extravagant manicures and gaudy jewellery that adorn them are not only expressions of individuality, but also evoke the often painful insecurity implicit in the pursuit of identity through adornment. For the artist, they recall his youthful idolisation of his glamorous teenage sisters. Signalling hands have appeared in Peake’s past work, outlined in neon, suggesting alternative methods of communication, such as emojis or the covert hand language of gangs. Like all of Peake’s practice, however, this focus on language – whether visual, verbal or bodily – not only exploits the humour and synergy inherent in contemporary methods of communication, but also the lapses and breakdowns that occur within them.