As part of our Artist Showcase series, originally published in the print version of ELLE Decoration, read about how artist Frances Goodman delves into the hypermodern compulsions that revolve around designer brands, perfect bodies and prescription drugs.
As any fraught citizen of the middle classes will secretly confess, upward mobility can be plagued by a host of pathologies. ‘I’m interested in the state of moving into the middle class, where it’s important to look good – to show people that you’ve moved out of the struggle of working-class life,’ says 34-year-old artist Frances Goodman. ‘A shift happens where you become governed by your wants rather than your needs. It’s no longer about getting food, paying the bills, survival. Suddenly, it’s all about needing to go to the gym, needing those new shoes or that new car…’
Goodman has already participated in numerous exhibitions here and abroad, from the 2008 Bucharest Biennale to Camera Austria in Vienna. Her recent Goodman Gallery Cape solo opening, Morbid Appetites was an exploration of ‘contemporary society’s ability to transform harmless activities like eating, shopping and taking medicine into deadly vices’.
Emptiness is a key notion in Goodman’s work to date. Sparkling suitcases – emblazoned with brand logos and covered in sequins, but empty – question the vacuity of global brand fetishism. A selection of designer handbags are turned inside out to expose their inner linings and zippers, becoming warped sculptural objects that form metaphors for societal dysfunction: attractive, but utterly useless.
Hidden behind velvety black curtains, Dear Ana, a slinky fridge has nothing to display, but emits dark anorexic whisperings and top tips on how best to keep yourself impossibly twig-like. Obsessive body consciousness is further explored in the Bodycopy series: pieces crafted from hook-and-eye fastenings (used to make clothing tighter or looser) adorned with slogans such as ‘Nothing Tastes as Good as Being Thin’, and ‘Starve Me Sane’.
‘All the addictions I deal with are about keeping up appearances,’ says Frances Goodman, whose fascination with obsessional subjectivity first took shape while she was studying for her Masters at Goldsmiths College in London. ‘These objects are about how you look, how you show yourself to the world. You pop a little pill when everything is falling apart inside and suddenly you can put on a smiley face, go out into the world and get your work done.’ But it’s not exactly cosy out there in the brave new world…