Simon English

Just look, don't read
Unmediated expression, instinct, the unconscious. These notions come to mind when looking at Simon English's drawings. Displayed on panels, each of them containing either 10 or 15 sheets of paper in (two or three) columns of five, they have been made by painting, drawing, writing and sticking things onto the pieces of paper, seemingly without order or structure. Characters and themes appear recurrently, and combine with each other somehow randomly. Images of nurses, horses, men involved in different sexual activities and big bunnies are mixed with references to literature (D'Artagnan, Pride and Prejudice, DH Lawrence ); popular culture (Julie Christie, the Queen's dressmaker Norman Hartnell, Leeds United), and art (El Greco, Martin Honert, Henry Moore or Ellsworth Kelly). Sentences written in a work reappear elsewhere: „I was four  when my father was shot" (from Haddock, 2003) and „I was three when my father was shot" (in Ansuya Blum, 2002-04); or „The farmer wants a wife" (in Farmer Humpty and Mrs Brown, both 2003-04).

Two subjects recur throughout: sex and an artist's insecurities. The former, which English depicts in his casual but extremely crafted drawings, is reflected in unconventional practices - fisting, male group sex, bondage - that seem both crude and naïve. The latter appear in the form of comments on the drawings („Mistake", „Very well painted") and sentences that are self-deprecatory („I don't know how to paint", „Your [sic] useless give up") or playful and optimistic  („If I was a sculptor, de diddle diddle diddle dee, I would want to be Robert Gober, de diddle diddle diddle dee"). But, despite the strong temptation to read English's works through psychoanalytical notions - suggested more by unquestioned cultural habits than by the drawings themselves -, that approach would certainly miss their point. The combination, superimposition, captioning, correcting and blurring of the works are not to be read as a personal confession. Sentences like „The first big lie" or „My second big lie" already advise against it. They are just not supposed to be read: any attempt to construct a narrative would betray the accumulation of images and words, by turning them from incoherent collages into small stories. Because Simon English's drawings are not finished objects. They are the result of an artist's decision not to allow himself the possibility of self-censorship. And, if there was any correction to be made, it is now there to be seen. This honesty, and the refusal to select „good" from „bad" production, results in images that draw the viewer into the detail, and gently but completely absorb him. It is when narrative is forgotten that they really come to life.

Pablo Lafuente
Galerie Römerapotheke, Rämistrasse 18, CH - 8001 Zürich | | Impressum | top