'Psycho Home-Counties' is Jamie Fitzpatrick's third solo show with the gallery. The exhibition presents a new body of sculptures with animatronics and audio, alongside paintings on paper, that reflect on the English Countryside through a tangled narrative drawn from both personal experiences and British folklore.
The exhibition takes place in a distorted version of the home counties. Three large-scale figurative sculptures dominate the ground floor gallery, emblematic of the artist's iconic, expressive style, made of wax and foam. Placed on plinths and measuring up to two and half metres tall, they take the form of Hertfordshire heroes in throws with mythical creatures and animals.
'Piers Shonks' is a loose portrayal of the folk hero from Hertfordshire where the artist grew up, who is fabled to have slayed a dragon. Most counties in the UK have a similar tale of a dragon slayer, but normally in relation to St George, the figure of national consciousness. Fitzpatrick recognises and depicts the dragon as representing trauma; a mental state that is ever looming in the British imagination, significantly so in a post-Brexit, post-Covid era, and reflective of uncomfortable notions of nationalism. The dragon also represents a threat to working class communities. Losing cattle or having the earth scorched makes these people’s ability to live through a winter perilous and uncertain, and so the dragon is a symbol of the potential for complete personal or familial disaster. Here, the artist uses these folk tales and iconography as a means to question personal and collective mental health and illness.
Woodwose is a mythical figure and motif that appears in medieval European art and literature who is characterised by its wildness. Two sculptures depict contrasting scenes: in the first, the Woodwose is calmly sitting watching hares in the fields, whilst in the second Woodwose is being brought down by a pack of black dogs. In English Folklore, black dogs often act as Death omens or represent the Devil, whilst in other legends they are seen as protective to travellers. In Fitzpatrick’s sculpture they can also be read as symbolic of melancholy, anxiety, and loneliness. The hare is likewise a creature with pagan and mystic associations, often connected to madness and fragility of the mind. The plinths, used to stage each figure and its surroundings, turn the scenes depicted into monoliths and maintain a connection to public monuments that are explored throughout the artist’s practice.
These three central works are animated with animatronics and sound. They speak folk tales and sing folk songs which are a subjective analysis of the artist himself and his Englishness, framed against the ghost histories that lie beneath the soil, landlords and ancient gods, hares, foxes and rabbits. Fitzpatrick canonises both emotion and history in contrast to the pervasive understanding that men shouldn't show emotion, leading to a reluctance of men to speak about, or deal with mental illness, which could be seen as a threat to their masculinity. A recurring thread throughout Fitzpatrick's practice, and present in the show, is his attempt to deconstruct and subvert ideas around toxic masculinity and nationhood. His humorous use of political satire verges on the Monty Pythonesque, that undermines and explores their roots.
In the exhibited paintings, Fitzpatrick continues his 'Sketch for a Broken Monument' series (begun in 2020) under a new title 'Psycho Home-Counties', bringing into view the English countryside and landscape. Fitzpatrick defaces images of British monuments with pastels and oil bars, exploring the rhetoric of monumental image-making, using humour to render domineering sculptures depicting masculinity and nationhood absurd and dumb. The new works are a culmination of the artist's residency at Edinburgh Printmakers and explore how landscapes on paper can be built in a manner that echo his techniques for building sculpture. In the manner of 17th and 18th century estate portraits in front of vast property with their threatening glare, the composite locations are displayed with figures foregrounded and challenge the viewer over rights of movement through the picturesque landscape depicted.
Across the gallery space, sculptures of enlarged body parts produced from acrylic cement are exhibited as a scattering of floor-based objects. The works reference the collective memory of people held in soil or land, and is a fragmented self portrait of the artist, which has been partially buried or returned to the land he once walked.
Jamie Fitzpatrick (b.1985, Southport, UK) lives and works in Edinburgh, UK. He graduated in 2015 with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, having gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practice in 2009 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. Awards include: Vordemberge-Gildewart Award (2016), shortlist; XL Catlin Art Prize (2016); UK/RAINE Saatchi Gallery Sculpture Prize (2015); New Contemporaries (2015 and 2016); Cowley Manor (2015), shortlist; LAND Securities Award (2015).
He has been exhibited internationally at galleries, institutions and art fairs including: Contemporary Forward at Touchstones Rochdale Museum, Rochdale, UK; Exeter Phoenix, UK; ICA, London, UK; Camden Arts Centre, London, UK; Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; Sheffield Museum, Sheffield, UK; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK; Bluecoat, Liverpool, UK; Backlit, Nottingham, UK; Pangaea Sculptor’s Centre, London, UK; Cowley Manor Sculpture Garden, Cheltenham, UK; Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, UK; VITRINE London, UK and Basel, CH; Deborah Bowman, Brussels, BE; Litóst gallery in Prague, CZ; PADA Barreiro, PT; Cassina Projects with ARTUNER, New York, US; ARTISSIMA, Turin, IT; and POPPOSITIONS, Brussels, BE; ASC Gallery, London, UK; Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer, UK.
Residencies include: Eastside International Los Angeles Residency (US, 2017), Biruchiy contemporary art project with the British Council (Ukraine, 2016); Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre, London (2015); The Leatherseller’s Company (2014); Telfer Gallery, Glasgow (2012); John Kinross Scholarship, Florence, Italy (2010); Cite International des Arts, Paris Residency (2014); and Scottish Sculpture Workshop (2009).