Banks Mill Studios reveals latest exhibition by local artist Dom Elger

Banks Mill Studios regularly hosts exhibitions of its artists and associates and this month is no different. Wednesday night saw Dom Elger unveil his latest creations to Derby with a night of drinks, drumming and anecdotes.

Dom Elger is an artist with his heart in two places. He lives in Derby for a majority of the year, an active climber and djembe player, but he also spends time at his second home within the Hamer tribal region of Ethiopia. It is from here that he draws most of his inspiration for the artwork he creates on his return.

Previous exhibitions, including a recent reprisal at Dubrek Studios, have seen substantial irregular shaped canvasses created by screwing smaller ones together. A tactile depth is added to them by the addition of found and recycled items such as shoes, circuitry and picture frames, pushing forward the content of the main body using acrylics. This year was no exception, but took things a step further with the use of an entire dining room table, plates, mannequin parts and around a hundred blue plastic chip forks.

I was initially drawn towards a larger painting which covered three panels at angles to give an indirect perspective view of a man on a motorbike dressed in high end sports clothing and collared shirt, whose passengers were his two wives, a goat and a laptop case. “This is very much what we get,” he explained. “It’s a typical motorbike-taxi. He’s flaunting all the ‘in’ things; he’s wearing posh trainers, sports clothes, designer hat and at the back he has carton of beer… he’s going to go home, invite his mates, kill the goat for meat, drink the beer… that’s what life is, that’s what you’re aspiring to.”

A large circular dining table forms the main canvas for the piece that you are greeted with on entry. Reigning over the top arc are six plates with typical British Fayre painted on, framing a young Hamer boy who goes by the name of Lendalai. The name very roughly translates as ‘unexpected gift’.

Dom explains “When I bought the compound that we live on there were three traditional mud roundhouses. Two of them were falling to bits. We fixed them up and built another, and he was living with his mother in one of these. As a single woman in Africa with two kids it’s very hard and Lendalai had nothing. What you see in the painting is all he had. It made me think ‘Why do I complain?!’ and just seeing him eating what he could, but being happy – it made me think about how much food we waste over here.”

This is backed up by a painting involving a wedding feast. The juxtaposition of a fine wedding taking place with extravagance to the point that the groom has a Schwarzkopf diamond bowtie is unbalanced with his explanations that just around the corner there are people without food. “All of the blue plastic forks in the painting I’ve picked up along the streets of derby each day,” he revealed, further highlighting waste and decadence of our local existence.

There is also an element of whimsy in Elger’s creations, for example His Tribute To Kylie. “Using ‘throwaway’ things, mannequin arms, a rocking cradle, beer cans and circuit boards… A friend said ‘You could make a person out of that’, so I did! It’s nothing serious; it’s just a bit of fun!”

Elger is incredibly supportive and positive of other artists and whilst I was there I heard him encourage no less than three other people to keep moving forward with their art, questioning ‘so when are we going to see your exhibition?’ It is great that such backing is given to contemporaries in this manner, reinforcing a sense of community in both Banks Mill Studios and the wider local arts scene.

Dom Elger’s Exhibition Recycling Everything But The Kitchen Sink is available for viewing at Banks Mill Foyer until 25 August 2017, 10am to 3pm.

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