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George Henry Longly

George Henry Longly, emerging artists

For the last few years, UK artist George Henry Longly (b. 1978) has been poised on the edge of far wider recognition - an increased visibility which, in our opinion, he fully deserves.

Producing impressively powerful yet delicate works with generally modest means, Longly achieves a rare balance between understatement and drama.

In the absence of evident narrative, his sculptures, video and collage are required to speak not only for themselves, but through tightly configured ensembles that are individually choreographed for each show.

George Henry Longly

Longly's comment that he "makes exhibitions, not art" alludes to the rigour of his site-specific installations in which all aspects of display - lighting, spatial relationships, the exhibition space itself - become components in a network of associative and performative meaning.

As several commentators have noted, there's frequently an undercurrent of melancholy, even tragedy, to the responses we are steered to experience.

The video work Untitled (Snake Eating Snake), 2008, depicts a snake devouring another; the dual-screen New Build, 2008, features videos of Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield singing covers of Jacques Brel's famous lament to lost love, 'Ne me quitte pas'.

Longly has also referenced Kenneth Williams' diaries - which posthumously revealed the despair at the heart of one of the UK's favourite comic actors - for the names of individual works or even entire shows.

George Henry Longly

This tension between the public and hermetically private is well illustrated by the formidable Reticent and Politic (2008, above), which shapes different guages of wire mesh into quasi-monumental forms that retain a diaphanous fragility.

Semi-transparent barriers, (the material itself hints, along with the work's name, at shielding; protecting) the piece could almost be seen as a rubric to Longly's work in general, which operates as carefully conceived public spectacle as well as a codifier of melancholy experience, autobiographical or otherwise.

August 2010


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