Dr. Gregory McCartney, editor of Abridged, The Honest Ulsterman, and curator, puts my current body of art work into context...
'Mystery Jets', acrylic on MDF, 59.4x42cm.
Copyright © Kim Montgomery 2018.
Text by Dr. Gregory McCartney
One of the better memes (if that is the right term) is the one that turns George Orwell on his head by insisting that where once we were worried that there were people taking our photos and following us we are now appalled if there are no photos of us and nobody is following us. It didn’t used to be like that.
Most people in my day (the 80s and 90s) wanted to be like someone else. To escape the humdrum and boredom of day-to-day existence. Everyone wanted to be on stage or on tv. But as something other than themselves. Then with the turn of the Millennium came Big Brother and reality changed. The real and reality were no longer the same thing. People wanted to be reality stars as if we didn’t already star in the drama of our own lives. Suddenly you could be a star by being yourself, or at least a kind of metaphysical drag version of yourself by being ‘ordinary’ whilst turning your ordinariness into a money-spinning enterprise. You no longer seemingly had to do anything other than be ‘yourself’ warts and all. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as that particularly when the machinations of televisual production companies are taken into consideration. People became representative of their ‘class’; the loud working-class woman was a ‘chav’ and used by the newspapers and politicians to accentuate as an excuse as to why benefits were to be cut from the feckless poor. Rich (and just as loud) kids from Chelsea also appeared on our televisions but were excused the moral condemnation and we followed their lives and loves without a campaign to disinherit them or take their trust-funds away. One thing both hand in common was that they became ‘celebrities’ rather than stars. If ‘stars’ last the ages celebrities fit neatly into Warhol’s ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. It’s getting harder to see the stars for the celebrities these days. Again it didn’t used to (apparently) be like that…
Kim Montgomery is interested in idols from her teenage years when there was mostly a gap between that mysterious person on stage or on the screen and the audience that had their posters on the wall. When even the most fanatical of us mostly only knew what we were allowed to know from usually biased magazines, books and tv programmes. We didn’t know George Michael was gay at the height of Wham’s success as the News of the World would have hunted him down they way they did later on. Her idols growing up weren’t quite public property yet in the way that reality tv, social media and the internet would make them for future generations. Those fans of popular culture born from the 60s to the 90s had to fill in the blank spaces themselves creating their own fanciful and speculative narratives. This was good and this was bad. Punk became a public menace due mostly to the fear of middle-aged local councillors and politicians. Rave likewise later on. It also became an inspiration. Both fed the line that anyone could pick up a guitar or a keyboard and become a star. In that way they’re the precursors of reality tv. In theory anyone could start a group. Three chords and the truth. In reality it was the marketing as much as the music that made the man, sometimes woman, but usually the man. However, we still had the band’s name in felt-tip on our school bags and (if we were brave enough) on the back of our coats. They spoke to us. They often became part of our persona and changed who and how we were. When Meat is Murder was released lots of us became vegetarians, even if only for a few weeks. We became someone and something else. We belonged to an apparent elite and we found somewhere to belong. It was a difficult time in which you could get beat up for not looking ‘normal’. Now you can buy Ramones and Nirvana t-shirts in Primark. Remember how difficult it used to be to buy that Husker Du t-shirt, that Sisters of Mercy shirt in a small town in Northern Ireland?
Montgomery’s work explores that strange period in a person when they are looking for a definition and for a rationale. She creates a kind of self-portrait that goes beyond the personal to the universal. It’s a period if most of us if we were honest would find it difficult to live through again. We were placed as outsiders and placed ourselves as outside the mainstream. I love that her gaze as well as being
female is fanatical. That’s how it was. That’s how it is. Operating as a contemporary artist today involves a certain amount of fanaticism, a will to believe in yourself and your work often in the face of indifference at best and hostility at worse. When I hear people (and sadly sometimes artists) beg for ‘mainstream’ art my heart sinks and I want to put on my obscure torn tshirts and army boots. Of course, you never really take them off. You never completely grow up. Those who say they have lie. We are made up of our memories, something Montgomery realises in her collages of pieces of photographs, newspaper cuttings and the like. She explores our uniqueness. Yeah there was a million of us that looked the same and liked the same things. But we were all different. And real.
Perhaps in the future Montgomery will explore the new types of fame. The reality that differs from the real. It will be interesting to see how she does it…