Damian Griffiths


Written by Izzy Elstob
02 Monday 02nd August 2010

In Damian Griffiths’s latest instalment of his artist in residence project The Humiliations of Man at Studio 1.1, the viewer is confronted by what appears to be a disparate little show in an awkward little space. But every time you exit to smoke or to watch the world go by you want to go back in. You want to look again. You want to have a proper think with those objects as your muses and companions. These are instincts that shouldn’t be underestimated. Instinct is, after all, just knowledge that we don’t know that we have.

My personal intellectual (not sexual) fetish is the modern-day polymath: our contemporary men and women who make every discipline their interest, who love the detail of the sciences whilst revelling in the beauty of the arts and the head-fucks of philosophy, and – more specifically – those polymaths who explore one discipline through the traditional media of another. Griffiths is one such man. He is also interested in language and the confinements of definitions.
There was a fabulous nineteenth-century French physicist called Poincaré who was of great interest to Marcel Duchamp. Poincaré pointed out the artifice of the language of science: put simply, the idea of a metre measurement, for example, is completely made up. It’s a fiction created by us to try and explain (as well as possess) the world. By messing with our inherent assumptions about what photography is and what sculpture is, Griffiths is making the same point.
He’s not letting us have our neat little categories to measure up what we’re seeing. His blobs of expandable insulation foam clamber up the framework like something from a 1960s Troma movie, creeping and spreading as if trying to engulf the two-dimensional images. Those images resist the invasion, but not before we, as the viewer, are forced to see the three-dimensional forms and the two-dimensional images partnered in the same work. It is refreshing that the artist isn’t bothered whether somebody wants to buy the whole conglomerated installation or just a little photograph from the middle of it. If he is ridding the objects of definition then he surely cannot grip obsessively onto the new combination he has created. And he doesn’t.
Griffiths has an educational background in Biology, which he studied before going to CSM – and it shows. His fascination with the onion as well as with the language of science being transferred to the language of metaphors – ‘seed of an idea’, ‘grain of truth’ – reveals an artist who not only explores the poetics of physics but is fascinated with the physics of poetry. He questions the construction both of art and of language. He takes a photograph of an onion, he crumples it up, he lets it flatten itself out once again, and he presents it on a shabby MDF plinth. What are we looking at? Are we looking at an image of an onion or are we looking at a sculpture of a picture of an onion or are we, in fact, looking at a sculpture of an onion? Does it matter? The answer may not, but the questions do. Griffiths asserts that he wants harmony to reign in the battle between image, object and concept. His onion plinth does the job of highlighting this battle but also, and impressively, calls a truce on all sides.
Griffiths’ images are attractive to look at and to think about. He tapes them to the wall and steps away, not loading them with impossibly intrinsic methods of creation. To ask such big questions with such simple methods shows not only faith in his work but also faith in the viewer.


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