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GOALS: Thomas Lee Griffiths exhibition

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'Locker I' by Thomas Lee Griffiths

The first solo show by local artist Thomas Lee Griffiths closes at the GLOAM gallery this Saturday. We asked him about themes of sport and sexuality in GOALS, an exhibition "sporting the hyperbole."

Tell us about GOALS.

The exhibition explores realms of fantasy and reality, between heteronormative culture and queer culture. Also how there's a fetishisation around this heteronormative culture, typically associated with sport and the masculine. There are environments that I wouldn't go in because they're places that for me, there's a kind of horror to them. There were these grotesque, overly-muscular legs I was doing, with the emphasis on those being the ideal archetype of the male. They're a bit cartoonised. I went really over-the-top with it and added these softer elements, as well these little tassels on the hair in pastel colours, as well as cosmetics.

I wanted to play around with materials that are quite gendered in society. There's a lot of things really clumsily done [in the show], like a deflated football and a slumped down locker. There's this dramatic and emotive value in slumped things, if things are melting. They're a bit like an anti-reality in a sense. It gives them a human trait. Even though they are just objects it's changing something to alter the narrative of how you might see them normally in the environment that they're in.

Is your work inspired by your own experience?

Quite heavily influenced by my own experience! A lot of it, especially my video work, I've projected my own feelings onto. It was created with a coloured background against me in isolation, falling towards the camera in a costume.

I'm using objects as a tool to represent an emotive language

I think the videos are the most direct way of putting myself into the work, as a way of not eroding myself. I'm inspired by things on social media sometimes. Disinformation is spread through screens, and when I see something that might get to me a little bit I'll make a response to that.

Is GOALS partly a response to homophobia in sport?

Obviously there is a lot of taboo around homophobia in sport. It's definitely calling out things around that. There's the pedestalling of the heteronormative, and the pedestalling of the archetypal stereotypes of what it is to be a man.

What I'm looking into lately is the shaming of the effeminate man and the factor of misogyny. My point of view on it is the kind of things I see from men online, and the shaming of other men who are slightly more effeminate. I think that's something I'm beginning to bring into my work.

Like 'Masc4Masc' culture?

Yeah! That's why in one of the videos I had all these emoji symbols, which is a language in itself, and I was batting them away. The piece was called 'Keep It' because I don't want this. It was a ridiculous concept but there was something very meaningful about calling out these things. It even linked back to art theory. I was looking back at ancient Greeks and Spartans, and they'd have symbols of moneybags or hares.

Hares are androgynous and those were passed onto men who become passive males. The man who awarded the hare would gain status while the other man would be a fool in that community as a passive male. I look at now, and how that's happening on social media. There's a sense of shame. I think nowadays we should be addressing that.

What are you working on next?

Next I'm going to finish off a series where I've been looking at gym equipment, but I've been making bad gym equipment [laughs]. A broken down bench-press.

It's much more emotive, this series. I'm using objects as a tool to represent an emotive language. There's some more legs that I'm making. They're going to be very effeminate legs but with very bold colours, like you see on shower gels and packaging aimed at men. A sport related colour palette, but I'm putting them onto effeminate legs with heels. Rather than dulling something down I want to empower that sense of effeminacy. I really want to push those stereotypes even further. I want my work to be more empowering. It comes down to marketing - 'we're meant to be this certain way'. I want to break that down and utilise objects in a way that's not conforming to that. I want to push those boundaries and blur them.

Sam Gregory

The last day of GOALS is Saturday 3 May at GLOAM gallery. 12 - 5pm, free entry.

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