‘You’re Reading Into It: Queering Contemporary Minimalism’ brings together bodies of work by seven emerging LGBTQ+ artists, curated by artist Oliver Doe. The work focuses on queer readings of Minimalist art and portrayals of LGBTQ+ experience through a minimal abstract lens. Seeking to challenge the machismo often associated with Minimalist art and reclaim a queerness in that visual language, ‘You’re Reading Into It’ highlights the importance of queer and radical feminist issues in the development of contemporary art.

Rachel Ara’s work makes direct references to High Minimalism’s sexism and the movement’s ignorance of women artists such as Ana Mendieta, as well as gendered pricing structures in art and the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS crisis to which she lost several friends. Charlotte Cullen seeks to reinsert the individual into Minimalist formalism’s abstract removal of the artist’s hand by employing a feminist sense of craft. This contrasts the ‘masculine’ industrial fibreglass insulation and aluminium used in the sculptures in order to question binaries of gender and sex. Garth Gratrix also utilises materials often associated with Minimalism – household paints, concrete, and metal – but turns this machismo on its head by playfully examining their ‘queer’ properties through language, innuendo and slang.

Oliver Doe’s paintings question queer visibility in visual culture, employing opaque gloss paint over translucent, skin-like nylon grounds. Abstracting figures into confused, amorphous and sometimes invisible bodily forms, Doe critiques formalist hard-edge painting through an inquisitive queer lens. These are well complemented by Singaporean artist Daniel Chong’s intimate mirrored sculptures, Safe Spaces, which critique his country’s criminalisation of homosexuality. These laser-cut works present the abstracted spaces between embracing figures, removing the bodies and their associations from sight, whilst reflecting the figure of the viewer within.

Tessa Hawkes’ practice plays with object-hood, materiality and narratives, working across a diverse range of media to explore closeness, balance and unalike objects. Her choices of ‘things’ are purposefully colourful and fun; working from collections of images and objects informed by industrial spaces and queer culture, playing with her own queerness and aesthetic views while working through formal methods. Liam Fallon’s sculptural work plays with similar visual codes, deeply invested in the objects’ properties and their relationships with queer coding. Using a diverse and colourful range of materials, Fallon explores and makes reference to subtle forms of queerness and sexual subcultures within pop culture.

Artists’ Biographies

Rachel Ara was born in 1965 in Jersey and lives in London. Her recent exhibitions include ‘Controlled Realties’, Anise Gallery, London, ‘V&A: Digital Futures’, Hackney House, London and ‘[ALLOY]: Inaugural’, No Format, London. She was winner of the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2016, and was recently awarded a 2017-18 fellowship from Near Now, Broadway’s studio for arts, design and innovation in Nottingham.

Daniel Chong was born in 1995 and lives in Singapore. His recent exhibitions include ‘Singapore Contemporary 2017’, Suntec City Convention Hall, Singapore, ‘Emphermea’, The Substation, Singapore, ‘MANPOWER Festival’, Oficina Colectiva Galleria, Lisbon, Portugal, ‘juvenescence; now’, Sala Mercado de La Merced, Rota, Spain. He has recently been awarded a 2017 winter residency at Kunstnarhuset Messen, Alvik, Norway.

Charlotte Cullen was born in 1989 in Nottingham and lives in Leeds. Their recent exhibitions include ‘Into the Woods’, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Leeds, ‘Where’s Your Coat You’re Going To Get Cold’, Caustic Coastal, Manchester, and ‘Please, Be Gentle’, Assembly House, Leeds. They are currently the recipient of a doctoral studentship with the Centre for Sculptural Thinking at the University of Huddersfield and were selected for UK Young Artist 2016.

Oliver Doe was born in 1994 in London and is an artist, writer and curator living in Newcastle upon Tyne. His recent exhibitions include ‘Provocations’, ICW, Blackpool, ‘In Plain Sight’, 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield, and ‘Moving on Out, Moving on Up’, NewBridge Project, Newcastle upon Tyne. Recent publications include ‘It was as if nothing was really there’ and ‘Salty Sweet’. He was a founding member of Queer Artist Collective Newcastle.

Liam Fallon was born in 1995 in Stoke on Trent and lives in Manchester. His recent exhibitions include ‘COLACE’, Grosvenor Building, Manchester, ‘Exchange Rates’, Bushwick, New York, and ‘Bought Objects’, Voidoid Archive, Glasgow. He graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2017, winning second place in the Woon Foundation Prize 2017, and has undertaken a residency with The White Pube, art criticism website.

Garth Gratrix was born in 1984 and lives in Blackpool. His recent exhibitions include ‘Provocations’, ICW, Blackpool, ‘Campground’, A Small View, Liverpool, ‘Nein inches away’, Thirteen a, Norwich, and ‘Queerdom’, Hospitalfield, Arbroath. He is the director of Abingdon Studios and curator at ICW, Blackpool, and undertook a residency at TopShed, Norfolk in 2017.

Tessa Hawkes was born in 1993 in Leicester and lives in Leeds. Her recent exhibitions include ‘Exaggerated Ideals’, LS6 Café, Leeds, ‘Free Range’, Old Truman Brewery, London (2016), and ‘p-nuts’, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Leeds (2017). She graduated from Leeds College of Art in 2016 and has completed a residency at Dumfries House with the Royal Drawing School.

The exhibition is supported by Albert Kennedy Trust, assisting homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ young people across the UK, and Northern Pride, providing a strong and positive LGBTQ+ voice in the North East.

Artists’ talk: Wednesday 16 August 6-7pm

Curator and exhibitor Oliver Doe will discuss the exhibition, alongside the politics of queer contemporary art in the current social climate, with artists Rachel Ara, Charlotte Cullen and Garth Gratrix in a conversation chaired by Dr Fiona Anderson, art historian at Newcastle University, on Wednesday 16 August, 6-7pm. Dr Anderson’s research is concerned with art and queer culture from the 1960s to the 1990s, with a particular focus on the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Watch the talk on YouTube.