Jamie Shovlin Courtesy of Jamie Shovlin and Haunch of Venison
Moral turpitude is quite a fantastic term. According to wikipedia, it’s an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen”
And it was under the grounds of ‘Moral Turpitude’ that artist Sebastian Horsley was unceremoniously denied access to the USA.
Despite failing in his duties as a fellowman, Horsley’s resume is impressive. Voluntarily crucifixion, pulling a loaded colt on a journalist, and of course, the requisitory opiate and prostitution dependencies.
Tonight, Horsley, amongst a myriad of others (Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk to name but a few) displays work at The Vegas Gallery’s ‘Peeping Tom’ group exhibit. The concept of the exhibition is focused on exploring the unseen, the private moments, which often bear no spectators.
Out of all the artists, I am curious to see what Horsley contributes to the exhibition, as his artwork is usually scandalous, sensationalist and well, brimming with all sorts of moral turpitude.
Inside The Vegas Gallery, the walls are a chessboard of artwork, with no descriptions or names around them; which in itself references the theme of the ‘Peeping Tom’; by the viewer and subject interacting anonomously, the sense of voyeurism is heightened.
Some are self-evident; Tracey Emin’s ‘Sobasex’ (My Cunt is Wet With Fear) is easily recognizable as a blueprint for the neon version hung beside the now infamous Tracey’s Bed.
And Sebastian Horsley’s work is easily disguisable, but not quite by the same standards.
“That’s appalling, how horribly vulgar!”
Says one patron, walking briskly away from a framed photograph, featuring Horsley quite graphically performing coitus on a quadruple amputee.
At first I don’t recognise that it’s an amputee; one might say it’s the carnal dance of limbs that confuse the image, but honestly, that’s not what the eye is drawn to.
It’s easy to find Sebastian Horsley in a crowd; his top hat is probably the same size as me. Intrigued to know more about the piece, I wrangle him away for a moment to discuss the piece.
“Well, it was taken in a brothel in Amsterdam.” He begins, surprisingly soft spoken and friendly for a “vile degenerate”
“The concept was about what beauty is…the body as sculpture. I thought about Ancient Greece and the Elgin Marbles, how originally they must have looked like any other statue, quite plain, then without limbs suddenly they evoke mystery and beauty. ”
The concept is interesting; I wonder if the aghast patrons are more concerned about the depiction of a sexual act, or whether that’s a façade for a deeper routed sense of disgust about having sex with a quadruple amputee. Discrimination against disability is still insidious, and commonplace. By placing the spectator into a position where they are forced to confront the image in such a visceral way, perhaps Horsley is in fact making the viewer confront their own prejudices; a true ‘peeping tom’ insight into their own bigotry…
Or perhaps he’s just a narcissistic pervert who likes banging prostitutes. Art is in the eye of the beholder I suppose.
For those who aren’t overtly into the obscene, Peeping Tom displays many other artworks that don’t cause regurgitation.
I really liked Emer O’Brien’s white horse, which is a simple photograph, beautifully shot and almost looks like a painting. Also, white horses make me think of unicorns. Got to love a unicorn.
Jemima Stehli managed to speak to me for a few moments about her self portraits, aptly titled ‘Tit with Card 3’ which is pretty much what it sounds like.
“My inspiration behind it, was turning the body into separate sculpture by separating it with card, and presenting it to the world.”
In total, I’d advise to set a few hours aside to browse around The Vegas Gallery. With such a rich and varied supply of artwork, from the sublime to the obscure, there’s definitely an aspect for everyone to enjoy.
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