‘Peter Piper Pigged a Pickled Pepper’ is a group exhibition at Fitzrovia Gallery which “takes its title from a well-known and often practiced English tongue twister and gives it an additional twist. Here viewers are invited into a space where surrealist games, magical thinking, dreamscapes, and hallucinations abound. Set within and responding to the everyday realities of modern living, the creatures, objects, and photographs in the exhibition become signifiers and parodies- of themselves and of our own lived experiences. The wistful cats in Alakoski’s photographs, the flying bats, aliens, and butterflies of Nielsen’s paintings, the doorknobs made of pickles in Sumari’s sculptures, and the soft silky sculptural shapes by Dreiman; each serve as vessels into our subconscious imaginations. One thing represents another thing, as Georges Bataille puts it: “The world is purely parodic, in other words, that each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form.”
An abandoned shoe, a rotten tooth, a snub nose, the cook spitting in the soup of his masters are to love what a battle flag is to nationality. An umbrella, a sexagenarian, a seminarian, the smell of rotten eggs, the hollow eyes of judges are the roots that nourish love. A dog devouring the stomach of a goose, a drunken vomiting woman, a slobbering accountant, a jar of mustard represents the confusion that serves as the vehicle of love.’ (The Solar Anus, Georges Bataille 1931)”.
Tove Dreiman‘s piece ‘Pretty as a Picture‘ references the parody of things with a large floor-based soft sculpture and its smaller, less assuming partner in crime which hangs next to it. The floor piece originated as an automated drawing and now proudly emerges from the page as a four-legged creature in silky fabric, standing on an opulent and dramatic curtain. The two pieces speak to each other, two characters and players in a game where no one is sure who came first. Hastily created automated drawings are often a starting point for Dreiman. The artist later meticulously transfers these into sculptural materials and throughout this process, the artist holds on to a sense of surrealist drama and theatricality. This interest in drama has also led to the artist collaborating with theatre and dance companies. For Dreiman, working with a stage or theatre production means creating spaces in which specific rules and frameworks parody or mirror real-life situations and experiences. While doing this, she repurposes materials from these theatre productions into her works and considers the cyclical nature of objects and creating works from materials which once had a different story to tell.
Curator’s Words: Jeanette Gunnarsson
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Drawing is a central part of the process, for me it’s a crucial means of communication, both towards the outside world as well as with myself. Ideas and thoughts usually emerge as images which I articulate through quick sketches, like a kind of wordless writing. It also works the other way around, as a method to grasp, materialize and examine abstract concepts. A text, sensation or movement translated into drawing suddenly becomes tangible. Still, the same image can hold a surplus and an openness to new thoughts and associations.
How would you define your multidisciplinary work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Jolly, gloomy, yummy.
You are currently taking part in a group show, ‘Peter Piper Pigged A Pickled Pepper’, at Fitzrovia gallery in London. Could you talk about your new works that you’re showing there?
It’s an installation of two pieces which are both based on the same drawing, a quick sketch I made in a notebook a few years ago. The drawing has been translated into two different formats, one stuffed sculpture standing on a curtain and one textile painting using the same materials. I like to play with flatness and spatiality, different formats bring out different characteristics of the shape, like different body languages.
How did you come up with the idea of ‘Pretty as a Picture ? Is there any story behind this new artwork?
In the beginning of the process Jeanette Gunnarsson (the curator of the exhibition) came for a studio visit and we talked about surrealism, play and dramatic stage scenery. Our conversation combined with the format of the exhibition space led me to make this installation that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Are specific artworks created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
Both, it’s a bit intertwined. Before, I would usually start with a concept and look for the best means to execute the idea, and on the way there I’d do a lot of try-outs. This process is accompanied by unintended outcomes which sometimes unveil new paths. Nowadays a lot of my thoughts and ideas are rooted in experiments or accidents from long ago, but I still do try-outs so it’s an ongoing cycle.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
Impermanence is a recurring theme in my work, but my favorite starting point is joking with a friend until the joke is so good you have to do it. Initiating projects can be overwhelming, I prefer to just stumble upon a starting point and work from there, like finding a material on the ground that sparks an idea or being invited into a context where a framework has already been mapped out.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
My dream is to put on a performance at the opera and really make use of the possibilities that exist in a space with such machinery. Other than that, I like spaces with characteristic features and traces that suggest other activities have taken place on the site but then stopped or paused.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
I’m a big fan of Amanda Apetrea’s work, it gives me life. I get very inspired when artists seem to enjoy their work and process. I imagine Katharina Grosse has a lot of fun when she paints her monumental installations, and Marie-Louise Ekman’s care free spirit is uplifting to think about.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like?
I share a space with Iris Smeds, another artist I love. Our room is about 35m2 which is a bit too small for us, but it’s fun to share the studio with her, I enjoy her company a lot and it’s comforting to have her brain in the room. We are both quite messy when we work so there’s a lot of tools, materials and ongoing projects laying around. Next door there’s 3 more artists’ studios and we all share a kitchen together, it’s nice to have colleagues to have lunch with.
What does your parents think about your art?
They seem to like my work a lot. Who knows if they just pretend to be impressed, but they are very supportive. Both of them have a strong interest in art and culture and made sure to make a lot of room for creativity when I grew up, so they probably feel happily complicit in my choice of profession. My dad always point out details in my work that he likes and sees connections to previous works or things I did as a kid.
Which are your plans for the near future?
When I get out of quarantine I’ll rush back into the process of making the scenography and costume for a theatre play that premieres in February. After that I’m going on vacation for three weeks! I worked too much last year, so it’s time to rest a bit. Later in spring there are new projects coming up so I’ll be working away in the studio.
All images courtesy of the artist & Fitzrovia gallery