Tall Tales : Big Issue North

Oona Grimes


I’m driving up the motorway & I’m a bit lost, my radio has stopped working & I’m worried I’ve forgotten the blu tac.

The familiar anxiety before a show diverted into the minutiae of shopping lists, a million post it notes littering the A-Z, parking dilemmas & did I wash my pyjamas; anything except confront the fear of exposing a new body of work.

Drawings I’ve lived with & had conversations with in the studio, clay things that have almost made themselves, will they survive the the real world.

Tall Tales started at 3 London venues & I was invited to invade the Freud Museum – an unmissable but terrifying opportunity to inhabit his & Anna’s home. Heavily loaded with Freudianism & a hefty curatorial history. Would the work survive such an overwhelming venue.

For Tall Tales I am showing 3 double page spreads from ’Flann’s architectural digest’; a series of 18 hand cut stencil drawings sprayed onto dense black paper which emulates analogue film. Each line cut out of tracing paper & sprayed individually. Slow growing work which allows the images to unravel themselves undisturbed.

Pogoing off Freud’s theory of Screen Memories & my mis-memories of a childhood summer on the set of John Huston’s ‘Freud : The Secret Passion’, cocktail shaken with my love of Flann O’Brien’s badly behaved language, the drawings are in conversation with a tribe of clay things.

‘A choir of potatoes’ invaded [suffocated?] Freud’s desk, ‘toes n toast’ tried to camouflage themselves into his antique collection of Egyptian sculptures, ‘Jerry’s lunch’ hid amongst the book shelves : absurd cartoon like amulets playing musical statues with Freud’s collection of artefacts.

The best bits are the practical bits – the amazing new friendships with the gallery staff, the installers, cleaners, curators, the other artists. How to get in early & negotiate transport, where to get the best coffee.

Each venue has unknown problems of how & where & Touchstones & the Freud Museum offer totally different solutions for display. I go into an initial melt-down panic & I’m in the installers’s hands so an amazing bond of trust develops instantly.

At the Freud Museum I just opened the crates & the works jumped into place. Touchstones is Huge & Amazing, no intimate spaces but an enormous wall ready painted in anticipation! My natural reaction is to run away on the pretext of needing more work or instant escape.

Just start.

OK – I place the works on the floor & am soon immersed in watching them form new relationships.
jiggle them
self doubt
ask a 2nd opinion
wish I hadn’t
just DO it
and trust

Paul the chief installer clicks his fingers & they magically appear on the wall & I breathe an amazed sigh of relief.

This is the first time all the works selected for Tall Tales have been in the same venue so I am interested in how they get on together.

I usually try to spend time with an exhibition throughout the show; for ‘chapter two’ I hosted Poitin Sundays; ‘Stop Bugging Me’ = clay crab races & for the Freud Museum = Freud meets Flann O’Brien on John Huston’s film set Sundays.

I made a facsimile of the original film script & asked Nick James editor of Sight & Sound to write a review as if it was a new release, both displayed with a reproduction of the poster.

I loved the unexpected conversations with invited artists, visiting psychoanalysts, tourists & school children, kind of pinging off the work but not aimed at it directly.

In Touchstones the works will have to fend for themselves, they feel pretty at home here. I’m back on the motorway and Joy oh Joy – the man in Halfords has mended my car radio for Free!

Oona Grimes
July 2016