Made pink

“I am the self portrait of my father” – Saeed Jones

It is important to inaugurate this piece of writing by mentioning that the artist’s father is a truck driver, specifically a transporter of tanked chemicals. By quirk of fate or maybe direct sarcasm, the artwork will accommodate itself in the rear container of a truck. Presented here are two videos projected onto pearly perspex screens built into thin pine (pink painted) scaffolding frames. One of these neat constructions projects an image of the artist’s father, a figurehead for the truck driver archetype. It’s a body of work that seamlessly eats its own tail.

The trucking lifestyle is one drenched in overtly straight and privately gay histories, and the artist has done their research, or has typed ‘truck stop blow jobs’ into a porn search to see if this very engagement exists. Trucks are burly objects. Look at a picture of a truck or drive beside one on a road. They are wide set, rigid and lofty. Powerful and mechanical and monstrous to look at and to drive, they represent a male orientated operation. So associated are they with the masculine, in fact, that an internet image search for “trucks; masculine” results in a fetishist picture of a cowboy hat-clad man adjusting the side mirror of his truck. Another is a picture of both truck and man’s undercarriages side by side. These images both seem like mild porn. It is interesting that a vehicular object such as this can generate at once such masculine machismo and sexuality.

Pink for young girls, trucks for young boys.

The sensitive, genteel colour winds itself tautly around every facet of this show, from the title to the colour wash to the roughly lathered paint. There is strength in choosing a colour so directly aligned with queer culture and associated with masculine and feminine stereotypes. The artist is flaunting the colour. Pink stands for genitalia, flesh, the indent left from leaving your elbows on your thighs for too long. Pink is perpetually bodily, a visual signifier for human sexuality. It is also a colour of innocence and youth. It sits in direct contrast to the grey tones of an engine powered road vehicle. The artist identifies the pink in all of its might and shifts it into the position of astute vigor. What we see is the deconstruction and reconstruction of symptomatic typecasts of gender and the preconceptions of masculinity. Here the screen transcends the inherent masculine and feminine qualities woven deeply into the colour and the vehicle and presents them in a queer and accredited position. And so the effeminate pink renders itself utility grey and becomes the unrelenting pink once again.

Written by  Lilly Heenan


From the exhibition ‘Make it Pink’ by Callum McGrath. 11 March 2016
Essay courtesy of Clutch Collective ARI