‘Is It Art?’ – Exhibition review by Tom Manning and Frazer Price
Teddy Souter – Artist?!?
Teddy Souter’s solo show is one of the most forthright examples of ‘outsider art’ in Brixton today. In fact, it balances so precariously on the boundaries of art that in the run up to the show, Souter spent much time with his contemporaries asking, “Is this art?” Appropriately, this became the name of the show.
When pushed to talk about his transition from adland, Souter said, “advertising is my hobby, art is my Job”. As we entered the small room, bathed in white light, we wondered if this would prove to be a wise career move. The work is predominantly mixed media and sculptural pieces, though embodying the spirit of avant-garde, Souter explored new disciplines including ‘alternative textures’ and ‘pen on wall based wall’ both of which provided an exciting departure from the art establishment.
Souter hovered nervously around us as we investigated ‘It takes two’, (2015). Perhaps the apex of the show, the piece is a fully immersive sensory experience where the viewer gazes at two figures cut from a tango can, whilst listening on headphones to tango music, artfully completing the famous idiom.
Many of the pieces in ‘Is this art?” hinge on a witty title. For instance, ‘Off the chart’, (2015), is a line graph which fluctuates wildly before leaving the graph altogether and plunging into the abyss. Some may argue that much of the work is based on lazy, well-trodden puns. But in truth, no artist in the last five years has won the Turner Prize without an amusing title. That’s not to say that Souter should be entered for next year’s Turner Prize – I’m really not saying that – but the direction his work is taking puts him shoulder to shoulder with some of biggest names in contemporary art.
Souter’s inspiration and mentor for the project has been his creative partner, Frazer Price. Price also comes from an art background, having studied in Birmingham, at a real art school. I asked him to talk about some of the radical themes which underpin Souter’s work. Price tells me, “By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, Teddy tries to approach a wide breadth of subjects in a haphazard way. He likes to involve the viewer, sometimes physically, and believes in the idea of function following form in a work. Pieces such as ‘Guil-tea’, (2015), reference post-colonial theory as well as post-modern politics and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.”
Price went on to explain some of the unanswerable questions Souter has tried to tackle. “In the exhibition Teddy demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ beings. As intermittent replicas become reconfigured through frantic and diverse practice, the viewer is left with a hymn to the inaccuracies of our era and a clue to the darkness of our existence.” Price tells me how proud he is of Souter’s efforts but then trails off, presumably drained from concocting these elaborate post-
Overall the show was a triumph that demonstrates Souter’s newfound passion for art whilst delicately revealing his deep misunderstanding of the discipline. It truly embodies the spirit of M.O.S.H, and while the private view was sorely lacking wine and nibbles, I can honestly say it was the most authentic art experience I’ve has at SCA since Rob Binfield showed us the work he did at GCSE. The art world awaits Souter’s next move with baited breath.
‘Is this art?’ will be in the back room of SCA until tomorrow. Entry free.
(Photography by Edward Usher)