Text by Emma Sumner
‘If you handle a cactus in the wrong way you’re likely to get pricked‘; explains Joe Fletcher Orr, founder and ‘The Boss’ of newly launched Cactus Gallery. Housed within The Royal Standard in Liverpool, Cactus is a gallery that demolishes the hierarchy between artist and curator; a space where the artist and their practice rules supreme.
Cactus doesn’t take itself too seriously, its ethos is one of playfulness; the minimal website, the kitch gallery sign, the miniature cactus on the private view drinks table, every intention has been made to create a welcoming, none pretentious space. The programme puts artist support at its core, but ultimately, Cactus looks to be a fun exhibition play space for artists to go wild, produce new work and experiment whilst providing them the platform of a solo show. Orr wants Cactus to ‘kick up some dust’ and bring fresh blood into Liverpool’s art scene.
Cactus Gallery’s inaugural exhibition is a solo show of new work by Sebastian Jefford, an artist Orr first became familiar with in a recent exhibition at Blackpool’s Supercollider. Jefford’s work is concerned with the superficial shallowness of the screen based experience, the objects he makes being nonsensical and fairly clichéd, which make him an ideal first playmate for Cactus.
Jefford has transformed Cactus into an immersive beige haven, within which are dotted a number of ‘farcical objects’ created from DIY materials. Precariously hanging from the walls are Mirage I and II which fool the viewer’s senses forcing them to question what they are really seeing. In the far corner a melting pile of grey matter, on closer inspection, turns out to be casts from trainer treads. Totally out of context, it takes a while before the mind works through the possibilities of how this gloopy pile arrived here. Although Jefford’s work is professional in its appearance there are some joyful raw qualities which maintain the works handmade character; a quality that feels very much at home in Cactus Gallery.
This inaugural exhibition may be an example of Jefford’s capabilities as an artist, but is also testament to Orr’s capability as ‘The Boss’ of Cactus Gallery. Although cleverly hidden behind the prickly Cactus brand, Orr’s enthusiasm to support artists and find innovative ways to sustain the gallery and its future make Cactus Gallery a space most certainly worth watching.