Looking for Looking for Love | Signed ink-jet print | Tom Wood & Gareth McConnell

From Looking for Looking for Love, photographs by Tom Wood remixed and remodelled by Gareth McConnell
23.4 x 33.1 inches / 59.4 x 84.1 cm
Ink jet print on 180 gsm paper
Signed in gold sharpie on the front by Tom Wood, signed & numbered by Gareth McConnell on reverse
Edition of 9 + 2 AP

‘There is Merseyside and its fine people, and there is Tom Wood, who photographed them at the Chelsea Reach nightclub in the 1980s, with an endorsing rather than a destructive attention. McConnell has made this book, based on two collages Wood made of his own images, by reworking them in a scrupulous exercise in reassembly. The images – the originals stolen, lost – have been scanned by McConnell from his own copy of the book.

McConnell has, in a homage, devised a new specification for Wood’s work, faithfully retracing the individual elements of the collages, and separating these elements in strict accordance with the contours created by their tiled boundaries. It is a coming together of separations: of parallelograms, improbable gestalt-ish angles, indents and other weird geometries, within whose mortice joints are contained a pagan magic – the soul-spirits of young Liverpudlians, enjoying their once great, happy courtship derangements. Wood’s photographs – proxy selfies – show a great deal of affectionately tactile engagement (not just gropes) amongst his young subjects, and McConnell’s project is related to ideas of physical closeness and separation, too: the interrelatedness of the paper of the original collage, the literal retracing of contour lines, the physicality of the ink on the original paper surfaces of his copy of the book.

Wood began some kind of disruptive process in his own work when he introduced into one of the two collages a rupture, running left to right, upsetting the neatly tiled ordering of the images, and in the other collage, a spiral that functioned similarly. In this way he changed the relationship of the original images, closing down the possibility – not that one really existed – of a sensible narrative reading. What McConnell is doing is pushing Wood’s own auto-subversion to a level of rare abstraction, so rare that it may challenge understanding. McConnell’s project could be described as a cross between the kinds of art practice that might take a line for a walk (Paul Klee), with those that cast the negative voids of something solid (Bruce Nauman), or recreate something (the Battle of Orgreave, Jeremy Deller), or engage in a little social examination (Stephen Willats). Less art-worldly, and more spiritually (perhaps), it’s as if McConnell has travelled a great distance to a sacred quarry, to gather a source material – Wood’s images become McConnell’s own version of bluestones, or menhirs, which he has carried over a rough landscape, hundreds of difficult miles, to monumentalise at a new holy site.

In this way McConnell has made himself a kind of Stonehenge: a monument of freestanding, two-dimensional forms, whose architecture contains powerful energy, arranged in a coded, magico-religious arrangement on the page. Although it’s unlikely that McConnell is just breaking up the menhirs of a previous religion to make himself a house, his reassembling of Wood’s work is certainly a highly personal one. It is both funerary and commemoratively affirmative: a revered burial site of beautiful youth and its pockmarked skin, its drive for sex and intoxication, and its drive for hope.

Neal Brown, introduction to Looking for Looking for Love