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The John Hour: Raven Smith

The art collective's fifth exhibition utilises the creative mediums of photography, installations and set design

Made up as a collective of three artists - Emma Gibson, Emily Pugh and Raven Smith - 'The John Hour' have produced a new body of work playing on the whimsical yet dark and somewhat sinister. Combining photography, set design and installation works, the art trio aim to explore differing reactions to the construction of the world as we know it. As the fifth instalment in a series of 'interrogative exhibitions', the collective are back with an exhibition opening on East London's Vyner Street this December.

Dazed Digital: Who forms your collective and how did you first get together?
Raven Smith:
Having met in the depths of pre-trendy Shoreditch dive bars years ago, we decided we wanted to show our work without any rules but our own...

DD: Can you talk us through each member, starting with Emma...
Raven Smith:
Installation artist, Emma Gibson, deals with intimate psychological themes using explicitly materialistic techniques, giving rise to a physical and mental space that quietly pulls apart everyday notions of self and society. Gibson’s incredibly rich installation work is built from layer upon layer of common social signifiers, periodically interrupted by the sentimental, the horrific or the otherwise wholly peculiar. These elements eerily function together to lure the viewer into an initial sense of familiarity that gets quickly turned in on itself, throwing up questions of sanity, identity, morality and the self.

DD: And Emily...
Raven Smith:
To walk into an Emily Pugh installation is to enter into an absorbing theatre of fine art constructions born from the excess and surplus of modern living. Pugh’s main material fascination is urban waste, which she animates into something exquisitely aesthetic, while retaining something of the pensive or derelict materiality of its origins. Exploiting the processes of highly decorative fine art and craft-based practices, the materials of Pugh’s large-scale structures subtly shrug off the constraints of their original purpose and take on a more complex and dialectic life of their own.

DD: And yourself, finally...
Raven Smith:
My performance-based photographs train a sharp eye on themes of identity, vanity, myth making and notions of the ideal. My work is both elegant and irrational—fundamentally stripping down complex notions of how we build our own image in the face of our personal and collective histories or myths. I catalogue decisive misbehavior with clarity and humour, investigating the relationship between the self, behavior and the role of the absurd in deconstructing latent notions of immortality or the immutability of established values and norms.

DD: What factors link your varying works together?
Raven Smith:
An understanding that we don’t need to link our work together. But we sometimes have a silent theme for each show, it helps to contextualise our thinking. The other thing being that The John Hour has weirdly become the thing in all our lives that we try hardest at, compete with each other over and are most proud of. Day to day we s pend a lot of time marching to the beat of someone else’s drum, The John Hour is all about our own desires.

DD: What's the story behind the name?
Raven Smith: - The original John Hour was based on themes of morality and identity, some secrecy too. It was dark but kind of hilarious.

DD: What does the new exhibition aim to explore?
Raven Smith: The instantly recognisable and the totally unknown.

DD: How would you describe your own work for the exhibition?
Raven Smith: Immediately subtle; ridiculously serious; optimistically hopeless.

DD: What's next?
Raven Smith: A very large gin and tonic.

The John Hour opens on Vyner Street from the 1st of December 2011 at 7pm, opening till Sunday the 4th from noon till 7pm thereafter.