Using readymade and everyday materials, Australian artist Gerwyn Davies creates his own characters through excessive and playful costume that conceal, transform and abstract his body.
He then photographs these highly stylised and exaggerated transformations in different locations around the world – from Palm Springs and Disneyland in LA to Australia’s Gold Coast. You could say his work forces us to reflect on our own clothing choices, reminding us of the narratives we construct for ourselves every day.
Backed with a hint of humour, his latest series, Fur, is currently on show at Michael Reid Berlin. Of the pieces featured, his favourites are Osaka I (2018) and Adonis (2019) for “entirely opposite reasons”. He explains: “Osaka I was a work I made while on an Australia Council residency in Japan and the costumes and figures were imagined in response to the built environment. This particular structure is a public square that sits next to the train station, and it is also a children’s playground, there is a trampoline that sits on top of the structure.
“It was searingly hot, the sun was bouncing around the white cement, and the whole space was crawling with ecstatic children. Adonis, however, is entirely staged in the photographic studio which is a really pleasurable way of working in which you can methodically construct the environment within a space that is fixed, and you have complete control over. The process of making both these works was really satisfying and that all comes back when I look at the final image.”
It takes Gerwyn a long time to create the costumes. “I do really enjoy every stage of making the work from sourcing materials, costume construction, staging the figure for the lens as well as postproduction but they all require their own distinct ways of engaging,” he continues. “The process of costume making is probably the most rewarding, and it is a very different kind of creative labour. It can be manual and repetitive, and this strikes a pleasurable balance between detailed focus and daydreaming while you work.
“It feels like the joy of this process comes from being so distracted by a small repetitive task – reshaping readymade plastic objects to form part of the fabric of the costume – that you don’t see that this loud and excessive figure is slowly materialising in front of you. It’s a little Dr Frankenstein and a little Liberace. There is always a degree of disconnect between my projected intentions for the materials and how the costume ultimately looks as well, so there is a pleasant element of surprise for me in this as well.”
Gerwyn Davies’ Fur at Michael Reid Berlin runs until 18 July 2020.
Okinawa I, 2018 © Gerwyn Davies
Kyoto II, 2018 © Gerwyn Davies
Bomb, 2017 © Gerwyn Davies
Kyoto III, 2018 © Gerwyn Davies
Osaka I, 2018 © Gerwyn Davies
Construction, 2017 © Gerwyn Davies