press release

The dialogue for the show is around ‘graft’. The importance of the work ethic in British culture implies a catholic sense of guilt, of Methodist or Quaker sobriety dictates to the way we live our daily lives. So how do non-conformists such as artists deal with their own social indoctrination whilst living an unstructured lifestyle, often hand-to-mouth due to erratic income and high living costs in London in order to maintain and pursue their practice?

The artists in Hard Labour at Cell work their indoctrination out through the pieces they make in their studios. Stewart Gough playfully combines intricately constructed representations of heavy machinery with readily available component systems, such as pipes and conduits to create sculptural works that resonate with sculptural and architectural Ideology. Steve Setford reminisces about the focus of a post-war families summer holiday – the tent and the caravan. Dads in vests and new friends from the caravan next-door spring back to life…

Sophie Newell peels back the fabric of the architecture we take for granted in a bid to open our eyes to the thin façade, metaphorical of mankind’s blinkered amble through life. Neil Zakiewicz uses wood carving skills to simulate chiseled forms and figures from industrial slabs of upholstery foam. Richard Ducker winches in mundane domestic appliances embalmed in concrete, immortalising tedium with Orwellian repression. Shahin Afrassiabi makes works, which pause between domestic stability and instability, building a looming sense of anticipation through inclusion of non-domestic objects, which imply a sense of change.

Hard Labour examines the underbelly of the hobbyist who builds Cathedrals from matchsticks by questioning the value of simply engaging in an intricate pursuit in order to not have to think about life, the universe, everything, and operating as a soporific for the masses. The work ethic culture in the UK, particularly with manual work, has developed through a class structure that was set in place in order to repress the 'working classes', both physically and mentally, through the nature of manual work itself leaving little mental or physical strength for free thought at the end of a day.

The counterpart of an artist, from any other ‘industry’, who has gone through degree and possibly post graduate education from any other specialism grows progressively financially (and emotionally) stable as their careers develop, while artists struggle with low rent jobs and accommodation, not to mention growing debt, in order to maintain a studio and therefore their practice. The logistics do not support the pursuit, yet visual art is part of the ‘rebuilding relations’ agenda from the British Council after the British government have been in conflict with a country because they were uncomfortable with it’s politics, economy, religion or leader. This certainly smacks of colonialism. Bombs then art. Hence the need for the dialogue Hard Labour exhumes; the practice of these artists becomes a literal interpretation when culture is offered out as part of the rebuilding process.


only in german

Hard Labour

mit Neil Zakiewicz, Richard Ducker, Rob Voerman, Sophie Newell, Steve Setford, Stewart Gough, Shahin Afrassiabi