Carrion - Birds of a feather

To view the other part of this exhibition please visit Carrion (THRILLER.I.P)

essay david matthews

Carrion, an essay by David Matthews

Since the neon lights went down on Gregor Laird's last show, his previous penchant for a plastic aesthetic and razor-sharp computer-generated lines have been replaced by an altogether more organic approach to illustration. His new work, Carrion (a joint exhibition with fellow artist Sarah Green) has two sections. Focusing around macabre imagery of the deceased Michael Jackson (THRILLER.I.P, taking in disturbingly comic representations of his pet monkey Bubbles and religious imagery) and continues his ongoing fascination with nature with a series of pictures based on birds.

The images of the zombie like Michael Jackson are representative of a tongue in cheek response to the publics vulture like circling over celebrity carrion (living and deceased) and how once the flesh has been picked off the bones, we move on to the next casualty. By creating artworks about him after his death, this plays with the way that deceased celebrities are often held up and regarded in greater esteem posthumously than they were in life, but turns this on its head, as he is represented as rotten and decaying, not whitewashed and shining. The most representative image is a triptych, Jackson as Christ, his doctor Conrad Murray and Bubbles either side, crucified like the two thieves who died beside Jesus.

The various images of birds perch ominously somewhere between Hitchcock and Black Swan complimenting Sarah Green's work and giving the viewer a jolting shot of pre apocalyptic tension and images addressing a growing sense of unease within the world, which has since replaced pre millenium tension that permeated art, culture and the media in the run up to Y2K. The birds reference the nightmarish scenes in Hitchcocks eponymous film, and in others such as Hour of the Wolf by Ingmar Bergman. This new showcase of mixed media drawings have a distinct painterly quality about them, which could be filed under the New Gothic Art movement, making this collection altogether more New Grave than New Rave, which is how The List described his last solo show.

The works textures are rich, tactile and inviting, and really help draw you into Lairds world of mutated design. The organic approach to this subject matter really works in its favour, as so much of the emotive quality of the work would be lost if the silhouettes were as cleanly cut as his Plastic Pastorals work. The colours and textures really have a quality about them akin to the works of Francis Bacon or George Condo and the subject matter is as deliciously dark as that of those luminaries.

The overarching theme of Carrion is that of the certainty of death, and the associated human responses to this, ranging from the emotional anxiety in the face of (personal and general) apocalypse and the act of attempting to preserve after death through art. But like the Shelley poem Ozymandias, the artwork and effigy of the subject is now decayed, the flesh of the original consumed by nature, life and the media. By using someone like Michael Jackson as the subject matter, who was infamous for his botched plastic surgery, it further underscores this idea of the futility of self preservation or beautification attempts, that the battle against the ravages of time is one you cannot win, and that his literal public face, like the paedophilia rumours that scandalised and destroyed the publics perception of the man, has been picked apart, leaving only the naturally occurring flesh, bone and biological matter. Art, celebrity, fame, life, humanity, it all boils down to this, leftover, pestilent CARRION.

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