In another feature showcasing the work of the city’s visual artists, HULL IS THIS editor Jerome Whittingham has been ‘direct messaging’ with Luke Beech.
Hull artist Luke Beech’s recent works include a number of ‘durational’ performance pieces, undertaken to help him ‘make sense’ of his experiences of poor mental health.
Luke says: “A lot of my work is an attempt to formulate a coherent language around what I experienced and how it is intertwined with my personality and belief systems – something I really struggled to communicate during the experience. Running throughout this recent body of work is the idea of a Corporeal Appetite. By this, I mean to make reference to an innate desire to be more grounded rather than dissociated from my own body and head space, whilst also drawing upon other connotations. The durational and sensory natures of my performances are my way of achieving this, singular acts that reference ideas of martyrdom and ritual devotion on an entirely personal level – dancing somewhere between the physical and spiritual.”
“To Dust is a durational performance. Using the heat from my hands and a 10kg block of unfired clay, I centre my own mental health alongside the act of making and existing as an artist. The performance tracks the journey from a therapeutic process, working hands-on with the earth itself, through to the obsessive and frustrating overworking of the material to fruitlessly produce nothing more than dust, and how that process reacts with my body,” explains Luke.
“I took the photograph Stained Glass on a whim, but quickly became quite fascinated by the picture and how the light shone over my body, how the mirror acted as a portal in the picture. To me, it says a lot about my personal narrative, there’s a strong element of what I like to call “awkward queerness”, my face is out of the shot – discreet but slightly cheeky. The title feels important – it’s the invisible colour, so to say. Yes the piece has the coloured lights cast across my chest, but there’s a tension between ‘stained’ and ‘glass’. In reference to the mirror/portal, am I the stain on the glass?”
How to Perform like an Artist
“How to Perform like an Artist happened at Soup Kitchen in Manchester, with a group called Short Supply. The performance itself makes direct reference to an artist called Joseph Beuys, an idol of mine. It takes elements of his famous performance as a starting point. In the performance, I painted my dominant hand and arm with raw honey and pure gold leaf, two powerful germanic symbols. Once finished, I licked and groomed myself clean with my tongue, consuming both those symbols and making comment on the values of artistic production in an act of, again, awkward queerness.”
I wondered whether Luke’s ‘durational’ artistic practice, and contemplation upon how his work helps him to understand his innate strengths and weaknesses, has now better equipped him to cope with the isolation of lockdown?
Luke replied: “Recently, a friend introduced me to a quote, I can’t remember who by, but it stated ‘psychosis isn’t always breakdown, sometimes it’s breakthrough’, and that feels like the right thing to say. It does a lot to sum up what I went through, how transformative it was to go through the experience, and how that has equipped me differently for the future. I’ve built the frameworks to navigate it all. For instance, I’m spending a lot of time reframing my thinking around having time to relax, rather than being bored. I’m accepting that I don’t have the capacity to create work as I usually would, and I’m burning out a hell of a lot faster – but through having a more intimate understanding of myself, I think I’m able to manage in some sense.”
Luke is a founder member and director of the Feral Art School cooperative.
[Jerome Whittingham – editor HULL IS THIS]