Richard Robinson & Robert Bermingham
In a hypothetical arena the bear with a sore head confronts the raging bull. The bull charges, horns lowered and pointing up, the bear side steps and swipes downwards with his claws to the cheers of the crowd.
The phrase ‘Bull or Bear’ is a commonly used to describe the stock market in rise or decline, corresponding with each animal’s method of attack. Investors can be described as having bullish or bearish sentiments, and market trends are witnessed when bulls (buyers) outnumber bears (sellers), or vice-versa.
The artist-collaborators Richard Robinson and Robert Bermingham
could not be further from the stock market, yet the term ‘Bull and Bear’ summarises their approach. Their practice is the unedited dialogue of two artists arriving from two different standpoints. We eavesdrop on their decisions, their plans, and their arguments. Robinson and Bermingham’s work is highly skilled in its technical accomplishment and displays a love of craft and graft.
On the ground floor the artists’ tabletop pursuits have been transferred to tabletops themselves. A meticulously scaled-up Haynes car manual pile-up confronts us. At this scale the exploded diagrams of cut away cars appear organic and fluid. Entitled You, Me, Everybody
, the piece draws on the motoring promise of delivering the future that now rots in the cars of yesterday.
On the first floor Chair In Motion: 1- 63
surrounds the viewer. An act of violence or disruption expanded over 63 drawings. The stop-frame images reduce the emotion of an institutional chair thrown across the room into one line of grey noise. The subject matter is redolent of teenage angst and rebellion, but its execution is impassive. It is as though the event is being viewed in hindsight, but with no more understanding than the first time around.
Finally, we are faced with a series of five cross-stitch panels referencing arcade games of the artists’ youth. The Future Will Be Little Different From The Past
depicts a game of destruction in process, a dual battle existing both on-screen and off, between pixellated heroes and villains. The game has been extracted from its martial origins and transformed into a laborious sampler. The quick-fire, kill-or-be-killed world is now a stitch-dropping, needle-threading toil.
In the heady juvenile subject matter or Robinson and Bermingham lies a more thoughtful discontent. Within the boy-to-man world of car manuals and teen angst is an expression of unease. If there is any rage here it is absorbed by their work. If they are disenfranchised then it is expressed and suppressed through carefully considered, genteel, repetitious acts. Destruction isn’t the process by which they make work, but it is the thing they express. We are left with the sense that everything might not be all right, the boy-to-man trajectory rebounded, leaving our duo stuck in limbo between the two.
Finally, the cellar presents a space in which the artists have chosen to show some of the sources of their work. This ‘private’ bar, staffed for the preview by both ‘Bull and Bear’, is where the two are most at home. Before we leave there is one final hint at the nature of the collaborators. Two coats hang on the wall, one a dark woollen coat with the epaulets undone, the other a hairier brown duffle coat. Innocuous at first, but familiar, the epaulets become horns and the brown toggles claws.
‘Bull and Bear’ they may be, but their battle, it would seem, is not with each other.