‘Leitmotif’ Exhibition, Sutton Gallery, Edinburgh, May 2015 (exhibition notes)
For this new exhibition, Muirhead has experimented with making mixed media works combining Japanese woodblock printing, lino printing, photography and found imagery.
Among his eclectic aesthetic influences are Bauhaus and modernist design, DADA, Op-Art, neo-plasticism, Pop Art and the American abstract painter Burgoyne Diller. Muirhead is also interested in the playful, colourful and modular designs of Memphis Design Group, the Italian design company led by Ettore Sottsass.
These influences translate in his work to a tightly considered approach to colour, surface, balance and space, which reflects his interest in modernism, typography, German cinema and Cold War aesthetics. Much of the found imagery in Muirhead’s work is from flea-markets, particularly in Berlin and it is informed by a collector-curator’s passion for print culture, especially of the mid 20th Century: magazines, cinema posters, street signage, redundant text books, window displays and advertisements; all these and more are reflected in Muirhead’s assemblages and collages.
“Once I have a collection of materials which I think hint at a theme, I allow the images to make their own connections and dialogues. For around a week, the components are constantly in flux – rearranged, photographed, shifted – until they find their place together. It is by this process that they are organized into a composition. The end results are usually a surprise to me.” – Gardner Muirhead.
One of the most compelling aspects of Muirhead’s art practice is the way in which these concerns are combined with masterly printing technique, where found material is juxtaposed with an exacting approach to the craft and process of mokuhanga or Japanese woodblock printing. This, combined with stencilled metal, spraypaint, lacquer and other materials give his mixed media collages an incredible variety of surface texture.