Artist Pauline Amos tells London to 'Pity the Meat' in her immersive new performance work

By Michelle Johnson | 18 Aug 2017 | Culture

The performance artist is currently presenting her “spontaneous avant-garde opera” at Stolen Space Gallery

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In east London’s Stolen Space Gallery, Pauline Amos is quite literally climbing the walls to ready the outline for her new, immersive work of performance art. By the 24 August, Pauline’s expansive graffiti-style charcoal sketch will become a outpouring of colour and imagination, painted live in front of gallery visitors and art enthusiasts.

It is the first time in 14 years that Pauline has created what she calls a “durational performance” – her last, created in Rome’s Opera Paese gallery, was exhibited in 2005. Her new exhibition, Pity the Meat, is an intense multi-sensory experience of the artist’s process, featuring music she created with virtuoso cellist and composer Paz Caplin and framed by her Canvas Carcasses works.

"Pity the Meat, like all my performance work, is a demonstration of process,” Pauline tells Tempus. “I work fast, and I feel like once the painting’s finished it’s like removing its life-force. It hangs there like a dead thing. That’s how I came up with Canvas Carcasses – hanging these pieces from meat hooks, like an abattoir of paintings.”

Pauline, who is a vegetarian and a passionate advocate against processes within the meat industry, says that her personal politics may creep into her work but she ultimately aims for her paintings to remain largely apolitical. Instead she aims to capture the zeitgeist “right on the nail”.

“Underlying all my work is the tragedy of the human condition and the relationships we have with each other and with ourselves,” she says. “I’m an artist, I’m a woman and I’m from Liverpool. Those things together form a political statement, but I don’t think art should be political. It’s above dogma and doctrine. The artist is the future thinker, the provocateur, the one who critiques the times they are working in.”

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Pauline works on Pity the Meat surrounded by her Canvas Carcasses. © Instagram/paulineamos_art

Combining her painting with the spoken word music she has created with Paz adds a surreal quality to the experience, which she says lies at the heart of her performances. “I like to think of it as an avant-garde opera. I’ve performed in galleries and the Frieze Fair, but I also love graffiti and street art. It’s energetic, evolving and challenging, so I love that.

“When we’re recording it’s spontaneous and improvised – whatever happens, happens,” she says. “While recording our latest album, I picked up a book about the art of Francis Bacon by [philosopher] Gilles Deleuze, and opened it up to see the words ‘pity the meat’. My imagination immediately went wild. His words reminded me of some of own life experiences and it became a metaphor for a man or a relationship and the effect on my life.”

Pauline will be painting in situ until the 24 August, when she will hold a closing event with live performances from Paz as she unveils the final piece. “What’s important about this kind of work is that you can’t think too much – you can’t let the ego get in the way. The paint carries you.

“Over the five days I’ll be aiming to get to a place where I have to stop, which can be really hard. I already know there will be big areas of white space in this work, in order to let the piece breathe and so as not to choke the paint,” she says. “But really, by the end it will probably be completely different from how I imagined.”

Pauline will be performing Pity the Meat until the 24 August at Stolen Space Gallery, Osborn Street, E1

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