Jennet Thomas: Maggie (close up)

Deborah Laing looks forward to the Grundy’s new and provocative exhibition – a space for satirical encounters, discussion and performance…

Experimental film and installation artist Jennet Thomas joins writers, critics, art historians, theorists and the public this weekend to enjoy her most recent experimental work: mixed media, film installation and imminent book, THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE.

Thomas’s work deals predominantly with ideological belief systems and the language adopted by those in power. By creating fictional worlds through satirical narrative strands and recognizable storytelling, her work is both accessible and surreal. For example, she disembarks into other historical dimensions, playing fictional homage to Victorian utopian fiction. Increasingly, she explores an often-invigorating discourse of ideal existence, and asks the question: What if? Only to turning any ideas you may have into absurdity with comic effect.

“Initially treading the boards on London’s underground live art scene in the 1990s, Thomas adopts a sci-fi aesthetic not unlike the movies of the ’60s”

Initially treading the boards on London’s underground live art scene in the 1990s, Thomas adopts a sci-fi aesthetic not unlike the movies of the ’60s. Known for her use of exaggerated colour and over-zealous costume and props, previous titles of her unique style of experimental film include I Am Your Error Message (2013) and School of Change (2012), featured in solo exhibitions in Europe, Toronto and New York.

Her collaborative work led her to co- found The Exploding Cinema Collective: an underground movement of artists and filmmakers implementing successful events held in disused warehouses whilst bands, performance, hybrid film and imagery encompassed the building.

Unspeakable Freedom: Screening, Live Performance & Debate 6.30pm @ Primary, Nottingham -- £4 (ticket includes a free drink)

Symbolically, Thomas applies vivid colours to awaken audience’s senses and to represent coded characters caricatures; like the Purple Preacher and Yellow Schoolgirl (2010). Her most recent work features a blue Margret Thatcher: ironically the film references are of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, just down the road from the Grundy Gallery.

Hosting a public symposium in the space on Saturday, visitors can expect a live musical score from her original film composer Leo Chadburn, and discussions fuelled around themes such as art’s role in cultural memory, ideas of truth and the use of fantasy and the everyday. Key to the debate is Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, cited as a major influence on Thomas’s work.

“Satirical material is promised in abundance, both verbally and visual”

The Thatcher era will no doubt feature heavily: Rowson’s cartoon depictions of of the former Prime Minister’s power and her hold on the British public are legendary. Memory recalls her funeral in 2013 being drawn by Rowson as tribal, led by savages and sycophants.

Further discussions will include how Thatcher’s long-term mythical status will play a part in Thomas’s current artwork and its possible reception. Satirical material is promised in abundance, both verbally and visual, as a Thatcher clone on Vimeo clips (now available on Thomas’s website) retorts: “I can’t bear Britain in decline”. This writer heard that the show is even being contested by local (Tory?) politicians!

On entering the  four galleries and discussion space, her work, I expect, will be bizarre and distort the rationality of the era depending on your age and historical knowledge. Either way, the day’s events are set to capture everyone’s attention and provide both a real and fictional world that all can enter.

Deborah Laing

Jennet Thomas, THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE, opens this Friday 3 July 2015, 6-9pm at the Grundy Gallery, Blackpool. See it until 22 August 2015

See the public symposium the following day — 10am-5pm, 4 July — with the artist and friends: more info and tickets here

See more from the artist’s website

Posted on 02/07/2015 by thedoublenegative