Where Artists Gather - And Art Breaks
Art for the citizens of Other England:-
There is another England. Mostly, it takes place at night, a landscape of lunar mischief; a starlit Arcady as imagined by some melancholic Puck. In this Other England the grass is as green as our childhoods remember it, the bees are as busy, and the water as clear.
A word to the wise, though: this is no cosy nostalgia. Do not be fooled by the roseate glow and the decadent deco-elegance of its inhabitants. This world is not a resurrected, reimagined past, it does not exist to soothe the shattered nerves; it is not obedient to our expectations and desires. There is distortion here, subversion; the ominous high-jinx of wilful spirits. There is a line in Rosette’s poem about never eating goblin fruit that you would do well to remember...
The art of Steev Burgess creates this Other England, a landscape with its own fully realised mythology, that is at once both comfortingly familiar and tantalizingly- almost disturbingly- exotic. His collages come to us like post-cards from this parallel world and bring with them a strange sense of déjà vu: we recognise this place; we have seen this world before. But not in this life-time, perhaps, and not in the waking world. The pictures are assembled with the language and the logic of a dream; they speak to something in the psyche, in the deep-time of our collective cultural subconscious.
This dream language is what first intrigued and attracted me; I felt that if I could follow the clues, assemble the elements correctly, decipher the dream, that I too could inhabit this Other England. I wanted to discover the precise spell or charm that would allow me to walk through the magic mirror into a world where I- sorry, stranded, non-native that I am- would feel more at home.
But of course, there is no magic mirror. These pictures are not mirrors, but windows: ‘windows of escape’, ‘windows on the soul’; windows on our own world, our Already England, a world accessible through the imagination, through the artist’s inner-eye, through fantasy, memory, longing and hope.
These ‘recycled realties’ reflect a world just beyond the reach of our tentatively groping fingers; something that we may catch stray glimpses of now and again, in disused railway stations overrun with wild flowers, in light, high-ceilinged rooms; a Pullman coach, an illuminated carpet page, a restless beating of wings. These pictures feel like home, not because they represent a world ‘as we would have it’, but because they recall a world, a way of being, that we have lost, but that we could recapture if only we learnt to look- to really see- the world around us.
Perhaps it’s a kind of ecological surrealism. One that would remind all us oh-so-homo-superior humans of our place in a greater chain; that would have us remember that we are animals too, no more, no less. It is timely work then, but not art rooted in protest or polemic; one that exposes late capitalism’s failure of imagination as its greatest crime. It is work that demands no more resistance than an awakened sensitivity to beauty. It offers us hope: the parallel world is possible, still, and daring to dream might just make it so.