Exhibition: “Psycho Home-Counties” by Jamie Fitzpatrick
Dates: 21 April, 2023 – 10 June, 2023
Venue: VITRINE, Fitzrovia London
The current exhibition transports viewers to a distorted version of the home counties, where three striking figurative sculptures dominate the ground floor gallery. Created with wax and foam, these larger-than-life sculptures embody the artist’s distinctive and expressive style. Perched on plinths, these sculptures, measuring up to an impressive two and a half meters tall, depict Hertfordshire heroes engaging in intense battles with mythical creatures and animals.
One of the prominent sculptures, titled ‘Piers Shonks,’ presents a loose portrayal of a local folk hero from Hertfordshire. Legends tell of his legendary feat of slaying a dragon—a tale familiar across many UK counties, typically associated with the national figure of St. George. However, the artist, Fitzpatrick, offers a unique perspective by portraying the dragon as a representation of trauma. In the British imagination, trauma has become ever-present, particularly in the post-Brexit and post-Covid era, reflecting uncomfortable notions of nationalism. Additionally, the dragon symbolizes a threat to working-class communities, whose survival during harsh winters becomes perilous when their cattle is lost or the land scorched. Thus, the dragon serves as a potent symbol of the potential for personal or familial disaster. Through these folk tales and iconography, Fitzpatrick provokes contemplation on personal and collective mental health and illness.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, ‘Psycho Home-Counties’ , Exhibition view at VITRINE gallery, London, 2023
The exhibition also features sculptures depicting the mythical figure of Woodwose, known for its wildness in medieval European art and literature. Two contrasting scenes unfold: one captures a serene Woodwose calmly observing hares in the fields, while the other depicts the Woodwose being pursued by a pack of black dogs. In English folklore, black dogs often serve as omens of death or representations of the Devil. However, they can also be seen as protectors of travelers in other legends. In Fitzpatrick’s sculptures, the black dogs take on a symbolic role, embodying melancholy, anxiety, and loneliness. Similarly, the hare, with its pagan and mystic associations, is frequently linked to the fragility of the mind and madness. The sculptures are elevated on plinths, transforming the depicted scenes into monolithic forms that establish a connection to public monuments, a recurring theme in the artist’s body of work.
An intriguing aspect of the exhibition is the incorporation of animatronics and sound, breathing life into the central sculptures. These sculptures come alive, narrating folk tales and singing folk songs that provide a subjective analysis of the artist’s Englishness. These narratives intertwine with the ghostly histories that reside beneath the soil—histories of landlords, ancient gods, and the presence of hares, foxes, and rabbits. Fitzpatrick elevates both emotion and history, challenging the pervasive notion that men should not express their emotions openly. By confronting the reluctance of men to discuss or address mental illness, which may be viewed as a threat to their masculinity, the artist deconstructs and subverts toxic masculinity and nationalistic ideals. The use of political satire, reminiscent of the Monty Python style, undercuts and explores the roots of these concepts, injecting humor into the discourse.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, We All Drive Our Ploughs Through the Bones of the Dead (Left Leg). London, 2023
In addition to the sculptures, Fitzpatrick presents paintings that continue his ongoing series titled ‘Sketch for a Broken Monument,’ now reimagined as ‘Psycho Home-Counties.’ These paintings unveil the English countryside and landscape. Using pastels and oil bars, the artist defaces images of British monuments, delving into the rhetoric of monumental image-making. Through humor, Fitzpatrick renders the dominant sculptures that embody masculinity and nationhood as absurd and senseless. These new works, influenced by his residency at Edinburgh Printmakers, investigate how landscape can be constructed on paper, echoing his sculptural techniques.
Similar to estate portraits of the 17th and 18th centuries, these composite locations feature figures in the foreground, challenging viewers regarding their rights of movement within the picturesque landscapes depicted.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, Home Counties Psycho Infinity 2, 2023. Oil Bar on Screenprint and Giclee Print. 85 x 61 cm. Unique
Spanning the gallery space, visitors encounter scattered floor-based sculptures crafted from acrylic cement, portraying enlarged body parts. These sculptures evoke the collective memory of people intimately connected to the soil and land. Serving as a fragmented self-portrait of the artist, these body parts appear partially buried or returned to the very land the artist once traversed, symbolizing a profound connection to the past and the artist’s personal history.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, Home Counties Psycho Infinity 1, 2023. Oil Bar on Screenprint and Giclee Print. 85 x 61 cm. Unique
In ‘Psycho Home-Counties,’ Fitzpatrick masterfully delves into themes of mental health, national identity, and toxic masculinity. Through the evocative sculptures, animated narratives, and thought-provoking paintings, the artist challenges prevailing societal expectations and invites viewers to contemplate the interplay between personal and collective experiences. The exhibition culminates in a powerful exploration of emotion, history, and the multifaceted nature of the human condition.