Freelancer and aspiring journalist from Adelaide. Visual Arts graduate & current journalism student. Fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, art & food. I also write for The Adelaidian // theadelaidian.net/author/georgina-tselekidis
Griggs tells the story of a feeling we all know too well
Upon entering the white glaring space of the Greenaway Art Gallery, I was immediately immersed in a surrealist realm of striking and vivid medium to large compositions comprising figures and diverse subjects. David Griggs is an acclaimed Australian artist, who explores deep and dark notions revolving around human existence, the darker side of human nature, and his own personal battle with depression, conveyed through his current series - Horror Business.
It's easy to assume that by merely standing aback and viewing these works for a short while, that they're somewhat imaginative, hallucinatory, or just a random compilation of surrealist figures. However, it's more than that, and this is what Griggs attempts to evoke in the viewer. The theme of the exhibition fundamentally explores his own demons and how his forceful struggle to face it all led him to create graphic and outlandish paintings. Just like the mind that runs at a faster rate than we'd like whilst dealing with intense emotive experiences, Griggs' paintings establish this almost fast-paced and spontaneous yet structured train of thought.
It's difficult to control unnecessary, unwanted, and irrational thoughts when you're in the midst of a depressive or anxious state. Trying to talk yourself through it can be impossible when functioning alone seems like a task in itself. Griggs explains how during these times of darkness, he found salvation in writing. However, yearning for more, Griggs decided to translate his words into visual depictions. He states that depression is'difficult and complex to discuss, and is an international epidemic'. He is right. As a viewer reading his artist statement, it's easy to relate. Regardless of nationality, background or age, a visual interpretation is equally seen and understood by all.
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Hi I'm David, Australian guy. I'm 40, I'm bald, and have many bad tattoo's. Idon't have any money. But I'm romantic and love good conversation and enjoy painting. I'm looking to find a dirty soul here who will love me forever. I can only promise you a bad smell and long boring nights. Message me if you think I'm your man. BTW; I have a six-pack and I know how to use my hands and tongue. Hit me up!', 2016, oil on canvas, 130 x 115cm
Similarly, Griggs explains that in order to conquer our innermost fears, we must ultimately approach them despite how 'scary' they seem, or how 'real'they feel. Our mind is a persuasive tool that has the power to evoke past emotions that instigate a sensory overload, creating a variety of unpleasant physical sensations. 'Imagining a vision, a thought so vivid that it puts fear right into your heart then trying to have the strength to paint it. It's scary for me." Griggs quotes.
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Self Portrait', 2015oil on canvas, 61 x 51cm and DAVID GRIGGS - 'Horror Business #9', 2015, oil on canvas, 101.5 x 76cm
Skeletal figures, religious references, and potent motives encompass the exhibition. Dark hues make up foreboding images, and an element of humour, vibrancy and colour symbolize the interchanging, altering and somewhat poignant streams of thought that overwhelm and swarm our minds. As you can see, Griggs' painting David Icke Was Here, demonstrates this through the suggestive elements and vivid colour against a dark backdrop. Almost like a still life in a surrealist sense, the painting conveys an idea of how we perceive ourselves. I personally adopt this idea from the skull and the adjacent green figure, with a cloud in a small square, a window of escape, or a head up in the clouds.
DAVID GRIGGS - David Icke was here, 2016 oil on canvas 115 x 93 cm
Another piece that profoundly appeals to me is Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, which merges a series of three almost identical skulls amidst a multicoloured backdrop combining flowers that stem from two distinct angles. Whether this was an impromptu decision by Griggs to place the flowers in this position, or they were methodically positioned this way, it subtly communicates the association with anxiety and what it's all about. Although one's logic may seem preposterous and almost impulsive to others, as well as ourselves, in the moment it all feels very real. This contrasting reality depicts the battle between irrationality, unreasonableness, absurdity and the role of believability. The flowers embody anxiety's juxtaposition of unconsciousness vs consciousness. It's no wonder anxiety makes us so dizzy. The title is accurately fitting.
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom', 2016, oil on canvas, 130 x 115cm
Likewise, his grey scale monochromatic paintings resemble a similar scenario. As you peer into the deep formation of images, Griggs' connotations of 'not having any skin', implies a feeling of being outside of his own body; two figures aligned next to one another, the right appears as a clothed man or a shell, and the left resembles the interior, either empty or void of connection to a body. The dark hues affirm this predicament, showcasing Griggs' interpretation of his melancholy and dreariness. He quotes "What I'm going through I should use as a form of therapy, paint it, and if the paintings are morbid and dark then so be it". Both Horror Business #7 and Horror Business #8 reiterate this concept. Likewise,Horror Business #3 consists of a skull with an octopus like body, as though the subject is attempting to 'keep its head above water', just as one does when they are 'drowning', metaphorically speaking. Delving into the image, an intertwining web constitutes the background; a web of confusion, cluttered and perplexing thoughts.
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Horror Business #7', 2015, oil on canvas, 213 x 152cm - Photo Courtesy of Greenaway Art Gallery
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Horror Business #8', 2015, oil on canvas, 213 x 152cm
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the Horror Business series, and believe Griggs successfully captures the essence of depression and how smothering it can really be. However, I take pleasure in the small humorous gestures that Griggs implements into his work; phallic aspects, witty titles, characters smoking cigarettes and more. Painting is a form of therapy, and perhaps we may never fully grasp the underlying motivation of each image and of the artist. Differing perceptions heighten the artworks' intrigue and mysteriousness, which is what I enjoy most about artists like David Griggs.
DAVID GRIGGS - 'Horror Business #4', 2015, oil on canvas, 130 x 115cm