Sunday, 18 April 2010

Naomi Leake

Naomi Leake - Wind Street - Image copyright of Naomi Leake

Outsider at Oriel Myrddin Gallery includes the video work of Swansea artist, Naomi Leake. Her film, Wind Street is set in the street of that name in the centre of Swansea, notorious for its abundance of weekend revelers. Naomi, dressed in a very benign looking sheep costume, approaches the street from the darkness. She walks slowly passed the clubs, pubs and drinkers with various responses from cuddles and strokes to an incident where the cameraman receives a punch in the head. At the end of the road she walks back into the darkness whence she came. The backing track is a piece of beautiful choral music.

It is a simple piece of performance, but has an amazing depth in its references. The Welsh sheep cliche is there but also the Lamb of God - reinforced by the choral soundtrack; the victim, the sacrifice. In her lecture at the gallery last Saturday, Sue Griffiths (Head of Visual Communications and Contextual Studies at Swansea School of Art) made a psychoanalytic argument for the piece as symbolising 'object loss', the infantile loss of symbiosis with the mother for which we continue to yearn but never find. She also made reference to the complicated layers of looking that are evoked by the piece - various manifestations of 'the gaze'. The identification of the viewer is interesting too, are we looking at the sheep or identifying with it? Is the sheep the outsider, or does it point up an other-ness in the drinkers, in their own form of Saturday night fancy dress?

The piece was originally part of a show at the Elysium Gallery in Swansea called Looking For Love. Another film piece in that show has Naomi attending a speed dating event dressed in a wedding dress - I haven't seen this piece yet - but I'm looking forward to seeing it sometime, it sounds totally intriguing.

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