David Lock Explores Masculine Performativity In Debut Solo Exhibition

What does it take “to be a man”? 10 Magazine contributor David Lock examines this loaded notion in his debut solo exhibition now on view at Firstsite in Colchester, Essex.

Entitled David Lock: In-between Us, the 20-piece showcase, which comprises oil paintings, a large-scale vinyl collage and a number of watercolour works, explores the performativity of masculinity from the strict gender constructs of the past, to the modern expectations of the male form within modern, mainstream media. A mixed-media display, it’s an elegant mosaic of masculinity, drawing attention to hidden histories and asking viewers to reimagine the male body as something diverse and multifaceted, here and now.

Photography by Jayne Lloyd

From cutting photographs from fashion magazines to creating the collages upon which he bases his paintings, Lock continually draws upon the multifaceted, fluid and ever-changing performance of masculinity. The collection of artworks on view – inspired by the award-winning artist’s past studies in Roman artefacts at The British School at Rome – feel apt against the rich Roman history of the Colchester-based art gallery which, rather fittingly, already houses the Berryfield Mosaic (a Roman artefact unearthed in 1923 at the site on which the building now stands) that dates back to around AD200. The London-based artist taps into his enduring fascination with Roman antiquity and classical statues, juxtaposing it with contemporary images and varying representations of the modern male body throughout history. Backdropping the works with blocks of colour drawn from antiquities in Colchester Museum collections that act as portals or doors to suggest an extension of the image beyond the painted frame, the pieces appear to have a performative quality to them, presenting those that view them with new perspectives inspiring them to think differently.

When You Wake (Scott)

The exhibition fosters intimacy through all aspects of its content, with six new works – previously private commissions – being displayed publicly for the first time as part of the show. One highlight is Saffron and Aspen, a portrait commissioned by Barrie Drewitt Barlow and his former partner Tony, who, in 1999, became the first gay men to father children through surrogacy; the portrait features their eldest children. The family’s past of criticism by tabloid newspapers poignantly echoes the painting’s collage creation process and Lock’s influences. The result is a beautiful celebration of the couple who’re now perceived as icons in modernising family structures.

Additional pieces explore the influence of working-class men’s fashion within queer culture, namely his painting When You Wake (Scott). This composition seems to particularly visualise this gender performativity in its many shades, as various faces and body parts are layered on top of each other in a painted collage, presenting the male body as a set of possibilities that can be continually re-imagined and performed however we choose. Lock’s signature Misfit series is also featured, along with 10 deputy editor Paul Toner’s The Boys That Swoosh: Tracksuits, Gay Scallies and Lad Drag taken from 10 Men Issue 57 – NEW, DAILY, UNIFORMwhich examines sportswear in queer contexts. 

Misfit (Vacation)

Firstsite director Sally Shaw MBE comments: “In-between Us is a fascinating examination of masculinity and identity, urging us to reevaluate societal constructs and explore how these can be challenged through art to create a more inclusive and open society,” adding, “Alongside Roman history, aspects of previously unknown LGBT history specific to Essex are celebrated – bringing important narratives to light which have previous laid forgotten.” 

Artworks by David Lock. ‘David Lock: In-between Us’ is on view at Firstsite, Colchester until June 23, 2024. Click here to discover more.

from left: T-Shirt, Grey Briefs and Sports Socks; Smoking-in-briefs

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