In a cursory sense these two artists could be described as journey-men, in that their work is derived from types of quest, endeavour and travel. The original meaning of the word journeymen refers to skilled craftsmen whose next stage would be to develop the skills required to become a master:
This term, dating back to Middle English, is very appropriate for these two particular artists. For Blandy, his interest in characters such as Grasshopper (from the television series Kung Fu), the Crossroads blues legend and the mastery of levels in computer fighting games, indicate that a sense of training has a central role in his work.
In Laitinenʼs works, pitting him against natural elements or materials, the activities could easily be characterised as quests, or tests, in which he sets out to achieve difficult and very palpable tasks. It is as if the attempts of these acts were a way into a new enlightened position. Akin to how knowledge is acquired through initiation rituals, these acts seem to instigate a personal journey towards achievement and the mastery of skills.
David Blandy sees himself as ʻsearching for his cultural status within the worldʼ. His work often brings together the use of fictional characters that relate to existing characters within popular culture. For Journeymen, Blandy has created an arcade game based on the relationship with his own character creations and the existing culture and mythology of Street Fighter. Visitors to the gallery will be able to play the video game on a working arcade machine. Blandy has also produced a set of action figures of these same characters; the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim, the White and Black Minstrel and other alter egos. This new work is exhibited alongside video work that has included previous incarnations of these creations, their journeys and quests. Crossroads investigates the mythology surrounding the Mississippi Delta Blues legends, The Child of the Atom, brings Blandyʼs own personal history into consideration as the consequences of the Hiroshima Atom Bomb and its relationship to his very existence are explored. The full set of Barefoot Lone Pilgrim adventures will also be on show. Blandy creates a place that is somewhere between the real and the fictional, a familiar and yet disconcerting hyperreality.
Antti Laitinen is a performance artist, in the widest sense, who often challenges the limits of his body to produce his works. His work often features himself as a tool of production, the means to the outcome of the work. Laitinenʼs new work, commissioned for this exhibition, sees the artist attempting to deconstruct a lake. He pushes his body, his tools and the environment to the limit by attempting to achieve such a physically and conceptually challenging act; an act that has its roots in the very origins of our engagement with, and understanding of, our environment. In Lake Deconstruction, a monolithic formation of ice blocks appears as the lake is changed from its natural state, and place, to a new location and form. Laitinen continually repositions himself within a seemingly familiar discourse on the landscape, however through a need to tame and play with it he creates slippages, which are often surprising and strange. Alongside the new work we are pleased to present Growler, in which an ice block is kept insulated from the warmth, as winter turns to spring, in order that it can be towed across the very lake that it was originally part of, slowly melting over the 2-day journey.