Painted gold, crowned with an ornate headdress, blessed with a voice that soars to the heavens, performance artist William Vinegrad from Hull, raises the humble weed and places it on a pedestal. These are the sort of weeds that blight the lives of gardeners the world over, while never given a second thought, by the rest of us.
William’s artistic practice is borne out of a lifelong fascination for abandoned places, industrial landscapes left to rack and ruin then reclaimed by nature. In between the cracked concrete, burrowing into the brickwork, nature thrives in the form of spores and stray seeds germinating and growing, in the inhospitable environment.
His early exhibitions have showcased photographic works filled with a kaleidoscopic beauty. Plant forms, seed pods, leaf fronds captured in close up, highlighting complex bejewelled patterned structures, colours of burnt orange, golden browns and oxblood red: the shifting autumnal palette in a single image.
Nature of Performance
The images, once found on gallery walls, now form the printed panels of decorative skirt and elaborate headdress designed by the artist. By adorning himself with his work, wearing of the floral images, he transforms and elevates the humble weed, to an object of status, an object of grandeur. This notion of raising the status of the weed, has been further explored in recent performances where teasels, brittle and dry, were wrapped in a florist’s bouquet and presented as a gift to an onlooker.
In another performance he sprinkles silver glitter over a bunch of random branches, after carefully trimming each with scissors and arranging in a vase: in doing so he transforms them into something desirable. In each performance William emerges painted gold, referencing the gilded objet d’art highly prized by collectors. The gold covering limbs, torso, face and hair lends a god-like look to his appearance with echoes of Inca and Sioux tribes. The stillness of the kneeling position and recent addition of smoke serves almost as an offering to the deity, as the act becomes ritualistic, sanctifying the modest plants: all eyes following the curling grey-white smoke tendrils as they ascend.
Accompanying all the activity is an intermittent song, sung a ca pell a, it is an ode that reveres nature and bestows devotion upon his beloved weeds. Repeated refrains of ‘flower power’ beseech the audience to listen in a soulful composition, the ‘Secret Life of Plants.’ William’s vocals take on a transcendental vibe as the elongated notes echo and reverberate around the performance space. Despite the performance having structure, their fluidic nature gives the impression of improvisation and spontaneity. After each performance William is very self critical, analysing each component and the audience’s reaction, to see what has worked, which elements can be played with and built upon for next time.
During Hull 2017 William has made a number of notable appearances including ReRooted and Worm Festival, where he collaborated with internationally acclaimed artists, for a three day event at Humber Street Gallery. Also inside the newly-built gallery, opening an evening of live audio/visual interventions, exploring the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Then in January 2018 he performed under the vaulted ceilings of the newly renovated market facing Trinity Square, responding to the question Where Do We Go From Here?
The plant-based metaphors extend to William’s work at the aptly-named Ground, a gallery set up on the edge of a working class estate on Beverley Road in Hull. By providing a space that encourages all forms of creative, artistic expression through a myriad of disciplines, Will and the rest of the Ground collective, seek to become a positive force in the local community. By sowing seeds of inspiration, transforming lives, building a diverse and equal opportunity art space, they look to reflect and enhance the surrounding area.
Don’t miss the annual MAMMAL JAM Festival on 23/24/25 February. Three magical days of performance, provocation and homegrown entertainment. For More Festival Details Click Here
Artist Site: williamvinegrad.co.uk
Gallery Site: ground.tk
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