By Melinda Edwards
That’s Grouse: The British Show is a new exhibition in London by Australian artist Linton Meagher. He seems modestly proud as he walks around Gallery 8 in St James’s, chatting and taking congratulations from visitors to the opening of his first London solo exhibition of his semi-sculptural, mixed media works. Linton’s artworks are larger than life depictions of hunting foul (grouse) created using discarded bullet casings cast in resin and perspex; and of giant sensual lips using thousands of imitation lipsticks and stimulating portraits of Kate Moss using surgical scalpels positioned to define the model’s body.
Using quite an untraditional choice of medium, Linton says that by taking ready-made, popular culture objects and displaying them in an unorthodox manner means these objects can then take on a different meaning. On his scalpel works, Linton says: “I like the fact that the viewer is attracted to the shimmering beauty of the steel, but then, on closer inspection, is disconcerted once they realise that the works are actually made from surgical scalpels. What I am exploring in the scalpel works are notions of beauty and the role of medicine in augmenting appearances and defining notions of perfection.”
Despite the fact that looking at thousands of empty bullet casings (which remind us of death) and the sharp scalpels (reminding of the possibility of pain), the artworks are beautiful, glinting under the gallery lights. However, Linton would expect visitors to feel a little thrown after first viewing his art: “The repetition of these objects allows for the creation of [art that is] often at odds with the meaning of the original object. I hope that these works get people to think a bit more about things, such as plastic surgery [which] is easily glamorised and separated from the reality of bloody operations — the scalpels confront the viewer with that reality.”
Just quietly, I find Linton’s use of scalpels in these works amusing given that he studied medicine and still practices as a doctor today. An artist first and foremost (he began painting as a child), Linton says: “As a student, I was intrigued by the cold and clinical forms of the scalpels and pills that I saw every day at the hospital and I wondered how they would look when shown in a completely different context.” While the pills and scalpels would no doubt look significantly different to Linton from a medical perspective, the use of such objects as a collective, they are, quite frankly, transformed into striking pieces of fine art. If only I had a few thousand pounds to spare, I would take one of Linton’s bullet birds straight back home to Australia with me.
You can visit Linton’s birds, lips, guns and his scalpel piece of Kate Moss at Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street St James’s, London SW1Y 6BN. The exhibition runs until Saturday, 26 May.
IMAGES by Matthew Edwards