Industrial bird feeds, a renovated pub in the North-West, amateur cycling, comic books, Swiss mountain baths, Aalvar Alto, muscle cars, silhouette portraits, The Watts Towers, carrion flowers, David Pye – just a few of the conversations I have had with Stuart Middleton over the past year. Seemingly disparate subjects, each with their own language and histories, these are some of Middleton’s terms of reference.
At first glance somewhat esoteric, in reality these are more than a curiosity box of influences. Middleton’s approach to his practice combines that of an anthropologist, eytmologist and archaeologist. A quote from the designer and writer David Pye is important in this regard: ‘At one time a flake of flint was fit for the purpose of surgery; and stainless steel is not fit for the purpose now’ (1964). Histories of materials and manufacturing are significant as Middleton explores the cultural conditions of objects and how they assume meaning. There is an interest in craft, labour and the attribution of value, or perceived value. Why do the false beams and faux vintage antiquities in a renovated pub provide comfort and reassurance? The ubiquity of the hipstamatic ‘new age vintage feel’ photograph is equally indicative of a constant grasping for authenticity. We’re happy to have the wool pulled over our eyes as faux traditions collide with desire and expectations. Middleton interrogates the way in which objects and architecture form our environment, and how they have defined the advancements of civilisations. As Jacob Bronowski states, ‘civilisation is not a collection of finished artefacts, it is the elaborations of processes’.
Stuart Middleton, b.1987, lives and works in London. Studied at Camberwell College of Art. Recent exhibitions include V22 Young London, V22 Workspace, London (2011), Daytona Ray, The Sunday Painter, London (2010), Ye Old Middleton Ferris Wheel, Stuart Middleton and James Ferris, The Woodmill, London (2010)