Exhibition forward *
by Garth Gratrix

Exhibition forward by Garth Gratrix

I have been asked to write a forward for this new exhibition of work by Gusty Ferro. I want to do this through a queer lens and my position as an artist, curator and director based in Blackpool waving from across the ocean and beyond borders.

Here is where our eyes first met, mine and Gusty's. Our bodies engaged in critical and conceptual conversation, for a year, as we exposed one another to new ways of navigating what it means to live and work on the edges of mainstream society and make art. At a destination steeped in history, both progressive and evasive in how barriers, boundaries and borders can impact ideas and openness. It is ironic to experience the need to hide oneself for safety at times, whilst also living and creating on the coast where 50% of your vision is said to be unobscured at all times. The coast for me is part seaside and part urban built environment, existing as a result of personal desirable, difficult decisions; as apposed to setting a definitive definition for things to exist....a queerness. Waves crash against defences, people defend against their own personal and societal rights and propagated political stances.

In Ferro's works I think about orientation, that is to explore a willingness and need to navigate the works from all angles and our position and relationship to it. In exploring these angles and to look at things beyond one stance or position, is an inherently queer decision and experience; to want to engage with the work beyond normative behaviour. It makes me feel animalistic, raw and frivolous. How new urges make me want to get on my knees, crawl through and rub up against, and or cruise the work in some way. Cruising of course in gay culture as a means to roam certain streets, that through word-of-mouth, had become a safe-esque breeding ground to find same-sex pleasure. 

Most people have a tendency to see straight, told to be straight, sit up straight, act and or carry oneself with straightness!. Ferro's work contrives a situation or moment of encounter in such a way that you could argue the subject no longer sees straight, therefore our relationship to objects and space are reorientated as Merleau-Ponty and Sara Ahmed explore in Phenomenolgy of Perception and Queer Phonemenolgy. The works very nature is 'bent' as a former prejoritve term now reclaimed, it is twisted, made 'peculiar', 'weird' or 'odd' in how we still explore Queer within its dictionary translation. In which case Ferro's ouevre to date could by seen as engaging us in a series of queer encounters and a space in which queerness prevails beyond its own risk of becoming finite.

The Untitled (Grinding Series) frolics with how bodies, objects, and double meanings can manifest. Queer theory suggest to us that Reading Into things is necessary, as it is outside the margins, down in the undegrounds and alleyways and beyond our societal views where most queer activity takes place. Through necessity, safety or forced out politically, 'we' individually and collectively hide in plain sight and live within imposed rules and self made systems of codification. These sculptures of metal and plastic are loose and yet self restraining. An intense collection of constricting ties wrap around a phallic shaped metal armature. A snake like sinicism is happening, adding simultaneously to its potential eroticism where materials move from hard to soft, to being gentle and firm in their ability to choke or release tension, spit or hiss back. It is prickly in its tactility, to flick it might be to tease or arouse it or indeed ourselves. To grind could also be read as to be on Grindr- a popular dating app. This perhaps exposes us to seeing the work as a sculptural proposal for future foreplay between lovers, not defined by gender as these materials dance between the desirable, deviant and dirty in their finish and finesse without such arbitrary concerns as taste, preferred body parts or what fits wear in the throws of passion.

The inclusion of rubber, oil and feathers in the Rod artworks hold multiple connotations and associations to fetish clothing and or tools for pleasure and shared release. With the metal being fragmented from crowd control barriers, the sensuality of the objects can also be met with concerns as to how nonconforming materials, and lives, offer a protesting and prospecting dichotomy. The work becomes a non-binary offer for new relationships between things to be witnessed and adopted.

Drawings offer a smearing, rubbing, caressing between material and surface. The page acting as the space in which to house a queer reading. I see forms within forms, a mirage effect where imagined terrains appear in my mind with varying degrees of kink, play and pleasure. Texture is prolific in all works; this invitation to offer a perhaps unwanted touch makes an exhibition feel slightly more naughty and in tune with being 'open-minded' in your artistic and personal preferences. It is silently seductive to our senses. 

Gusty's hands are at the forefront of all these works. Is the artist ever just an artist, or also the agent provocateur, the Mistress, a dominatrix teasing the boundaries in which they and their material relationships find tension, pain, lust, love, allyship.....? They are both author and authentic in his open mindedness and willingness to expose themself and us to a new kinship to queers potential.

.*(Text written for the exhibitionTrês Pontos at Galeria Pilar, São Paulo, 2022)