The UK’s endless cycle of austerity and recessions doesn’t just mess up gas bills, it messes up art too. Penny Goring knows that better than most, but it hasn’t held her back. For 30 years, the English poet and artist has been making art from the depths of poverty, living a relentlessly precarious life in order to make her work. Others would have chucked in the art game and got a job at Costa or something, but the drawings, paintings, films and sculptures here, in her first institutional exhibition, just prove one thing: that was never an option for Goring.
The work on show is a bare, open, visceral and brutally honest depiction of Goring’s inner life. There are vicious little ink drawings, made as Tory cuts sliced deep into her world, filled with nudity and violence; a mixture of curling, cutesy flowers and pretty dresses with severed limbs and bloody corpses too. Some earlier works are made with food dyes, others done on Microsoft Paint. Cheap, easily accessible things.
Goring’s bodies are twisted and bleeding, her fabric sculptures covered with words like ‘dirt’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘poison’. It’s all Kusama-esque childlike naivety and Louise Bourgeois-like soft sculptural experimentation, but slathered in violence and emotional torment.
She explains it best herself in a drawing upstairs: ‘my body is trashed and I live in poverty because I never stopped looking for true love’. She’s a romantic, a dreamer: an artist. This isn’t art made to sell to rich collectors, or to be hung in fancy galleries, or even to be seen. It’s art made because making art is the only option. Goring has to paint these paintings, make these films, to make sense of the random, emotional, oppressive mess of life – it’s how she deals with poverty and pain in an uncaring society. It’s art for its own sake, and that’s a very rare thing to see celebrated like this.
I don’t love the aesthetic, but it doesn’t matter, because Penny Goring wouldn’t give a shit, she’d keep making it anyway, because it’s not for me, and it’s not for you. It’s for her – her alone – and that’s why it’s good.