Like Us is an substantial exhibition that highlights the key themes of my practice. The work is often intense, sometimes strange, sometimes beautiful, frequently emotional, accessible yet complex and always looking to create connections with the audience and stimulate thought and discussion.
Like Us invites the viewer to enter a world that is clearly different from the one we live in. It is a world unlike our own but not so far removed from it. It is a world that plays out the implications of the processes and ideas that animate much of contemporary life. It is a reflection of our world, but reshaped by my own personal perceptions. Many of the works reflect on what might come from contemporary research, but it is more ambiguous than didactic. I am inspired by the implications of the science that shows how closely related all earthly life is. I am intrigued by the possibilities and compromises that are tied together when research is put into practice. I am aware of what happens in the space between certainty and reality, where people do the wrong things for all the right reasons. I am not trying to tell people what to think, I am more interested in how they feel, and in offering them a space to reflect for themselves or just to wonder.
Connection and empathy are at the heart of my practice, and at the heart of this exhibition. Many of the works are beings of one sort or another; creatures. The word creature comes from Middle English and means literally ‘something created’. My creatures are just that, imaginary beings that are almost possible. They are not always traditionally beautiful, but they always have a beauty and an honesty within them. They are more vulnerable than threatening. People sometimes find their strangeness off-putting at first, but they usually learn to see past this. The creatures literally appeal to the audience’s empathy, they entreat the viewer to look beyond their strangeness and see the connections. This is the double meaning of the title. ‘Like us’ - the creatures implore; ‘because, deep down, you are just like us.’
This process of connection is led to a certain degree by the other inhabitants of the exhibition, which tend to be children. Many of my works contain different representations of children and infants, who for me embody a number of the key issues. Obviously children directly express the idea of genetics – both natural and artificial – but beyond that they also imply the responsibilities that a creator has to their creations. The innocence and vulnerability of children is powerfully emotive and evokes empathy – their presence softens the hardness of some of the more difficult ideas. The children in my works are young enough to accept the strangeness and difference of my world without difficulty, and they hint at the speed at which the extraordinary becomes commonplace in contemporary society. For me, the clear emotional bonds that connect the children and the creatures in my work are simultaneously optimistic and disturbing. Their closeness is both moving and unsettling.
Like Us is comprised of sculptures, paintings, drawings and video works that approach these issues, and others, from numerous different angles. There are important early works as well as some of my most recent, alongside significant pieces from the last fifteen years. The space has been broken into a series of connected, yet discrete spaces, some large and some more intimate. There is flow from dark to light and the works arranged in a way that emphasises the more unexpected connections between them rather than the obvious. The gallery becomes an immersive world that the viewer enters and moves through, discovering unexpected places and occupants at every turn.