Eddie Peake

Eddie Peake had a busy week during London’s Frieze Art Fair last October. Not only was his Italian gallery showing one of his spray-paint-on-stainless-steel paintings at the Regent’s Park fair, but 31-year-old Peake also opened a collaborative show with artist Prem Sahib at Southard Reid that had a reflective golden wall bisecting the gallery, equipped with speakers playing electronic music and human laughing, spitting, and respiratory noises. On top of that, he also staged an improvised performance called Creating and Collapsing a Drama, or How It Must Feel to Be an Ill Dog Wearing One of Those Plastic Head Funnels, which involved a flutist, three professional dancers, and three camera operators. And finally he hosted his ongoing club night called Anal House Meltdown, which melds dance music with artist performances (one memorable AHM party featured an entirely darkened interior for physical over optical exhilaration). “I really like to play with the manipulative potential of music,” Peake says of his various soundcentric multimedia productions. “It can dictate the way we view an image.” Manipulating expectations—and leaving other fields open for sudden, on-the-spot manipulations—is something of the koan for the painter, sculptor, photographer, choreographer, and creative instigator. Much of Peake’s work is centered on the human body-plumbing its eroticism but also its tactile physicality. For a performance earlier in 2012 titled Touch, Peake orchestrated a naked soccer match between teams of men who were entirely nude, save for sneakers and socks. Likewise, in his wall-mounted works, Peake often employs black-and-white nude photographs as the focal base for color abstractions, gleeful graffiti-inspired smiley faces, or reflective surfaces that allow glimmers of the viewer’s image to crowd the paintings. Peake has even used his own nude body as a subject, legs splayed and hands behind head, as if to ask, Is this the kind of self-exposure expected of an artist for an eager-to-consume public? “My use of my own body started as a pragmatic usage of something I have readily available to me; it will always be at my disposal,” he says. “Having said that, I like to depict the body in a way that occupies an ambiguous aesthetic space that transcends or toys with categories of things like gender and sexuality.” It’s easy to discount Peake’s provocations as juvenile rabble-rousing, but there is something both formally lyrical and psychologically telling about his work. It seems to question not only the audience’s comfort level with shifting sexualities, but also the idea of the artist as cultural id.