Mick Peter and B.S. Johnson: Lying and Liars
Mick Peter is a sculptor and B.S. Johnson a writer – and although this show may loosely be described as ‘collaborative’, the participants are not acquainted, and never could have been. Indeed, while Johnson’s work seems familiar to Peter, the reverse is impossible given the fact that Johnson died when Peter was less than a year old.
However such artistic and philosophical relationships are at the heart of this show that probes the nature of fiction as well as the methodology and intent of the artist and writer.
Is fiction a form of lying and is sculpture a form of deceit? Is art, which often claims such lofty ideals such as being the pursuit of truth, dependent on a form of lying for it to succeed?
There’s no doubt that this is a baffling, enigmatic, carefully deliberated and deeply intriguing show. The links between Peter’s resurfacing of the gallery walls in geometric 3-d patterning, the use of life-size, cartoonish characters that inhabit the gallery space and the display of books and film relating to B.S. Johnson are intellectually challenging, provocative and elusive.
Brian Stanley Johnson was an English filmmaker, poet, critic, novelist and TV producer who died in 1973 at the age of forty. His novel Albert Angelo (1964) famously contains physical apertures in the printed pages as part of his narrative technique. Johnson’s film Paradigm (1969) shows a young man who slowly matures among a set of props resembling oversized books. He utters a language that seems almost familiar but remains just beyond our grasp.
Peter has converted the gallery into discrete ‘environments’ that predominantly involve what appear to be solid, concrete constructions of repeated geometrc form. On closer observation, the weight, solidity and permanence of Peter’s intervention is revealed as a visual hoax, a fiction of the type to which the show’s title would appear to refer.
Is all art a kind of kind illusion, Peter asks; or is it a necessity that reveals a deeper truth?