Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has a new piece unveiled this week at the Edinburgh Festival. Working across performance, sculpture, installation and painting, Chetwynd draws on a seemingly disparate array of cultural reference points (high brow and popular, historic and contemporary) to construct her exuberant, anarchic and distinctly handmade worlds. Mediaeval Mummers, Starship Troopers, 60s happenings, and contemporary cinema, have all provided inspiration for her work over the years.
If there is a unifying thread, it is an interest in the folk, the pagan, those outlets throughout history for the licensed collective outpouring of emotion – whether in pagan ritual, Greek tragedy, Medieval guising, puppetry or political demonstrations. A sense of spontaneity and urgency permeates her work, nowhere more visibly than in her celebration of the lo-fi and adhoc. With no attempt at disguise, her works visibly lay bare their artifice, requiring a conscious suspension of disbelief as we encounter her surreal and humorous reflections on life’s very real problems.
In a new performative installation for the The Improbable City, Chetwynd draws inspiration from the rich world of Mary Renault’s historical novels and their fan groups. Her sumptuous and theatrical installation places the epic action from Mary Renault’s novel The King Must Die within an operatic setting referencing the legendary Czech stage scenographer, Josef Svoboda. Immersive and sumptuous, Chetwynd’s installation invites us to lose ourselves in an exuberant celebration of the pagan.
Marvin Gaye Chetwynd was born Alalia Chetwynd in 1973. In 2006, she changed it to Spartacus. “I was working as a kind of actors’ manager with my performance group in London, and I needed a name that was more robust, to use as a nom de guerre or a kind of shield. It occurred to me that the idea of solidarity evoked by the name Spartacus really worked with the theatre group I ran”. Now known as Marvin Gaye Chetwynd she told the Guardian;” Marvin Gaye was very much a free spirit all his life, but his father, Marvin Sr, was a preacher, cross-dresser and disciplinarian who used to beat him with a belt. At a time when Marvin Jr was very paranoid, he went back to live with his parents. He bought a gun to protect himself and gave it to his father – really putting his head into the lion’s mouth. Later, they had an argument, and his father shot him dead”.
Image: Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Home Made Tasers, Studio 231, New Museum, New York, 2011—2012 Courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ
Marvin Gaye Chetwynd The King Must Die 30 July – 30 August 2015 Edinburgh Art Festival