As part of Glasgow International 2018, The Modern Institute on Osborne Street is hosting an exhibition of work by eccentric Pop artist and London fashion icon, Duggie Fields. In his 70s, Fields is still as prolific as ever, colliding influences from across the whole cultural landscape, both classical and contemporary,across his painting, photography and most recently, music.
I’ll be honest and say that before I saw this exhibition, Fields’ work wasn’t what I’d expect to see in a contemporary gallery like the Modern Institute, purely based on what I’ve seen there in the past. His maximalist style could perhaps be considered too tacky and kitsch for a gallery known for promoting the neo-conceptualism that rose to prominence in the nineties along with the ‘Glasgow Miracle’ fanfare.
Although cynical, nonetheless I was intrigued by this particular exhibition which was to be a re-imagining of Fields’ living and working environment.
Self-described as post-Pop figuration, his large paintings and murals amass the walls or sit on easels in the re-imagined rooms of his abode. Sickly colours of luminous yellow, pink, orange and green and his referencing of both classical and popular culture with subtle – and not so subtle – references to art history icons; Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and Piet Mondrian, with the floor splattered ever so slightly in the style of Jackson Pollock.
Looking at the paintings of a collection of figures outlined in bold black, some with hacked off heads, others with severed limbs reminiscent of the Venus de Milo and Greek sculpture. There are also some figures in a subtle homo-erotic manner, which made me think of Soho London’s bohemian culture, which I’m sure Fields would have been familiar with, as well as a number of Francis Bacon paintings.
Included is a large portrait is of a 60s icon but we are unclear who. The literature doesn’t tell you and neither were there labels to indicate, as far as I could see anyway. Contemporaries, Patrick Caulfield and Michael Craig Martin came to mind when viewing these paintings particularly the placement and juxtaposition of objects, but with the brightness dial turned down.
Fields’ own iconic self appears throughout the installation in various forms, in particular a slightly less than life size cardboard cut-out in blue suit with a hands behind back stance, almost as if he is observing your every move. This is evident on Fields’ bed at the very centre of the installation, scattered with several cushions, one which his face adorns with the words ‘SO COOL’ over the top, the double O placed as if a pair of spectacles Elton John would wear. The bed also has a rather fitting leopard print cover. Above hangs what looks like a Giorgio de Chirico influenced painting of a woman’s torso. There’s a kind of three way connection here as de Chirico himself was heavily influenced by Greek sculpture as is evident in his surrealist paintings. Fields’ bathroom also has his signature portrait as well as some abstract expressionist technique on the wall.
It seems every aspect of this installation has been considered right down to the lips cushion, reminiscent of Dali’s Mae West lips sofa, and is something of an indulgent aesthetic overload throughout. There is no work and life separation, Fields’ every waking (and sleeping) hour is an artwork. He eats, drinks and sleeps art. Technology has been an important factor in Fields’ work, allowing him to sample and re-use previous imagery, updating it through the use of animation and film via the virtual world. The re-imagining of his domestic environment mirrors his own practice of shameless and honest reappropriation and borrowing from art history and culture in general, which you can’t fault since originality is a myth.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this work produced was an after effect of 60s acid-tripping. A time when Fields’ started to paint in this saturated way while sharing a flat with Pink Floyd co-founder, Syd Barrett known for his regular acid-dropping, but the drug scene didn’t seem to interest Fields all that much. Fashion and Pop culture interested him more and have still been massive factors in his everyday life, as you can tell from his coiffured hair with Superman curl and his dress sense.
Exhibition runs until 26/05/2018
All images copyright of Glasgow Art Blog