03 Jun, 2009

Cut, paste and refresh

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Clunie Reid’s slash-and-daub defacement of celebrity images is a powerful rebellion against consumer culture, finds Jessica Lack

When Clunie Reid was asked to name the single most important item in her studio, she said “my scissors”. Not surprising, considering that in the artist’s relatively short career, she has sliced up enough movie stars and pop princesses to rival the best of Hollywood’s plastic surgeons.

Reid’s work is, quite simply, the antithesis to aspirational, lifestyle-magazine culture. Her tactics are to the point: re-appropriating glossy images from the media, like punk artists Jamie Reid and Linder did in the 1970s. She scrawls the words “I Shop in Iceland” in felt tip over Britney Spears’s face and creates aggressive collages of tabloid stars picked from the pages of Hello! and Heat. Reid’s work lifts the lid on consumer culture and sleek celebrity imagery to force us to question how these pictures affect us.

Magazine adverts are Reid’s most obvious targets; she scribbles in black pen over the pictures to highlight how cliched and staged they are (something Charles Saatchi clearly appreciated, having bought several of her works). Other artworks are more knowing, making in-jokes to other artists who use mass media in a similar way. Richard Price’s reconfigured Malboro Man comes to mind.

Reid also creates playful pictorial juxtapositions: in Untitled (Cat/Blow Job), 2005, for instance, she places the image of a cat hanging upside-down above a photograph of a woman fellating a flaccid member. The moggy’s pose mirrors the limp organ. It’s a way of getting us to face up to the overt sexuality of the media, and perhaps also a rallying cry for integrity from an industry that seems, at times, devoid of self-regulation.

Born in Pembury in 1971 and now based in London, Reid studied painting at the Royal College of Art. She deliberately uses cheap materials – gaffer tape and blue biro are common – in knowing contrast to the expensive-looking images she defaces. Many of her works question the idea of beauty, be it Venice sunsets designed to entice city execs, or fashion models, airbrushed to perfection. Speed is of the essence, and many of Reid’s collages are made quickly as if she is physically trying to keep up with her thought process. Mistakes are left in place or simply blacked out, and the scratchy, makeshift results appear as fickle and impermanent as the world she is portraying.

Why we like her: For a picture of the naked Reid crouched down on her studio floor, her head covered. Tacked to the wall is the front cover of a magazine featuring a glamorous couple with the word Flash! emblazoned in large type.

Prize offerings: She was selected for the prestigious East International in 2007 and she won the £5,000 John Jones Art on Paper award at last year’s Zoo Art Fair.

Where can I see her? Clunie Reid is showing at the Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, until 20 June.

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