For his first solo exhibition at L21, Glasgow-based artist Joe Cheetham presents an ambitious frieze of new works in the largest gallery room. Providing us with ‘something for the weekend’, Cheetham’s exhibition encapsulates the promise and positivity of coming together to go out, offering an unabashed reflection on communal joy as a vital antidote for uncertain times.
As the week becomes the weekend and crowds pour into venues that open late and close early, time is suspended and complex emotion simplified. The intoxicating closeness and incessant beat consume, as heads let go and bodies move in time. Sincere in celebrating the tastelessness of a big night out, Cheetham’s paintings are executed with a manic exuberance, abrim with partying detritus, loud clothes, wild eyes and billowing blunts. Relentlessly positive the works depict revellers whose limbs interlock and hands hold. Cheetham’s figures are supportive, unified and full with the rising rush and heady expectation of the dance floor.
As if overflowing, both figures and canvas surface drip – sweat and paint – physical exertion contained only by the extremities of their support. Working literally back to front, Cheetham forces spray paint through the reverse of his surface, relinquishing the control of his pencil studies, through loose passages of colour and line. Painting in such a way, Cheetham’s first moves remain prominent, with subsequent gesture offering no recourse for alteration or erasure. The permanence of this one-shot technique necessitating not only technical conviction, but an acceptance of the unpredictable soak of paint through material weave. Recalling the uninhibited spaces that inspire his work, Cheetham’s process teeters on the edge of control – imbuing his surface with a material energy that complements the liberating chaos of his figuration.
At the gallery’s extremity, the marauding figures are spun around and spat up the adjacent wall towards the gallery’s opposing end as if trapped in a loop of perpetual excess. For what appears so simple in the dance can never be in the day – despair lurks on the other side of euphoria, as Sunday meets Monday, with Friday never further away. This harbinger of ‘real-life’ remains ever present in Cheetham’s paintings as blissed-out gurns fight exhausted grimaces as the hedonism of the night meets the inevitable morning after.
Indeed, as we continue to be physically separated by the current pandemic, the collective catharsis of the dance floor is perhaps needed now more than ever. No longer merely just ‘something for the weekend’, the return of the dance provides a symbol of hope, marking a future when we can all be together again – for it will be towards the healing spaces of the night that many of us will gravitate – to rediscover, reconnect and release.
Joe Cheetham (Epsom, UK, 1992) lives and works in Glasgow. Cheetham’s practice explores the constant evolution of club culture (such as the transition from day to night, sunset to sunrise, ecstasy to serenity), incorporating gestural marks and a vivid colour palette. Recent solo exhibitions include: Can you feel it?, TACO!, London (2019) and Such a good feeling, Jackob Kroon Galeri, Worthing (2019). His work has been shown collectively at Untiled (But Loved), Bosse & Baum (2020); Full English, Platform Southwark (curated by Dateagle Art, 2019); Sinkhole Project, London (2018); Wherever you Land, Slugtown, Newcastle (2018); Welcome to Suede, Suede Gallery, Edinburgh (2016); No Bad Wednesdays, Voidoid Archive, Glasgow (in collaboration with Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh, 2016) and Interim, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2016).