Brian Griffin is recognised as one of Britain’s most influential photographers, known for his unconventional approach to his work and love of surrealism. MMX Gallery is delighted to present Brian Griffin: SPUD!, an exhibition of photographs selected from his recent residency at Labanque Arts Centre in Béthune-Bruay in Northern France.
The idea that influenced Griffin’s concept was that his residency was within the Western Front, where British and Commonwealth soldiers were posted during WWI.
In the town of Béthune by coincidence is a large McCain potato factory – one of the largest potato production plants in Europe. This formed the inspiration for the project.
‘Around the city, there are massive fields of potatoes, which end up on our plates, McDonald’s French fries, you know. Those potatoes grow in soil where bodies and body parts and rivers of human blood have been buried within the soil! So I decided to spend a day or two in this factory. I saw potatoes coming in large trucks and samples being taken. What happens when the soil which we feed from, is also that which houses the blood of thousands of soldiers?’
Griffin’s project takes us on a visual journey through historical references reflected in the haunted battlefields of the past to the fictional futurism based in the present time.
An idyllic dream of preindustrial and pre-war landscape is captured in the simple spud, the most popular vegetable in the world – the potato – fed on the human blood. The circle of life; nature, work and war… beautiful, grotesque and tragic at the same time.
Spud, the informal British word for potato, was also a slang term used to refer to a low ranking British soldiers in World War I.
The exhibition features portraits of military personnel, R.A.F. Aircraft men and women, factory workers and businessmen. Painterly colour images inspired by British Realism, as well as black and white shots, all are taken on location in England and France.
After reading the works of writer and poet Robert Graves who was himself a seriously wounded officer in WWI, Griffin began to think about the terrible wounds inflicted on soldiers during the conflict, which is also reflected in some of the still life images in the show.
The project has been dedicated to the First World War by Griffin and ultimately resulted in a book; SPUD published by GOST (March 2018). The exhibition at MMX Gallery in London will open on 25th October and will run until early December.
11th November this year equally marks the centenary of the end of World War I.
Brian Griffin: SPUD!
26 October – 8 December
Private View: Thursday, 25 October, 6-9 pm
MMX Gallery, London