SHAUN CATON

FEB 2017. Our first task has been set by performance artist and painter SHAUN CATON. This is an abridged version of the task which came to us over several emails:

The Prehistoric School of Barbaric Painting

Make a series of archaic paintings/drawings/monotypes. For reference look at stone carvings of faces, sheela na gigs, masks and fetishes. Also, think about objects of veneration: painted stones, bird skulls, animal skulls, reed pipes and rattles.

Subjects: Bloated dead animals, animals that are walking out of the frame or being gobbled up by others, hybrids, amputations of animal parts, magic stones and sticks painted with curious insignia and patterns, indications of river currents, rain, and sink holes. Clouds. Birds with fanged beaks. Birds with hairy legs and claws. Bird shit and turds. Bird skulls. Fish skeletons. Fish with monstrous faces and teeth. A fish fetish. Magical instruments, like rattles and whistles. Foot prints. Blood. Blood rites. Animal heads on poles. Lord of the Flies type imagery. Animal human hybrids. Links to modern gadgets: parallels and connections to social media, what is a mobile telephone to a cave man? What is a computer or TV screen to a troglodyte? What sort of shows or apps could have been screened in prehistoric times if TV existed?

Colour scheme: browns, blacks, reds, whites, greys, blues, ochre, bistre, yellow, deep purple. You might like to mix sawdust or grain in with your paint to give it a thick texture.

Paintings need not be refined and can be unresolved impressions, superimpositions (one painting on top of another), mixed media works.

Dress: is whatever is most comfortable for the pair of you. If you have any animal skins, shells, bones, or such items of adornment, then put them on and into the pictures, wherever possible. You could also paint your faces and hands red/black. Wear makeshift shoes fashioned from carrier bags tied over your normal shoes.

Shaun Caton in performance at Carnesky’s Finishing School, Soho, London. December 2016. Photo – Julius G. Beltrame

Shaun Caton has created over 400 live performances worldwide since the early 1980s. Often characterised by extreme duration (some performances have lasted 3 weeks) or brevity (some performances just 17 minutes), his works incorporate the installation of ancient and organic items, with the making of gigantic paintings, often illuminated by ultraviolet lighting. These works strongly reflect prehistoric or apocalyptic imagery.

www.shauncaton.co.uk


CRITIQUE

This is what Shaun had to say about our efforts to interpret his task:

Keelertornero asked me to set them a creative task, early in 2017. I had the notion of setting up a school for primitive, barbaric painting, that might be right up their street. Knowing their pictures as I do, I invited them to paint a picture in browns, reds, black and blue with pseudo prehistoric themes or subject matter that bordered on the anachronistic. With this fairly limited palette I knew the duo would come up with something peculiar and fascinating. Actually, they created a huge painting on cardboard glued together to form a backdrop for a performative ritual, which they filmed. This created an interesting, dramatic tension between something living and something inert – a happening. A sort of tableaux vivant.  I think it worked very well. The picture was strange and metamorphic and even reminded me of stage scenery from a bygone age. A  powerful fusion of their own work and one or two motifs borrowed from my own repository but slotted together into their own language. The film was excellent and captivating to watch. I watched it 3 times and found it fascinating each time because of its originality.

Shaun Caton, November 2017.