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16th April 2024

Review: Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work by David Hoyle

This month, Factory International’s Aviva Studios welcomes renowned artist David Hoyle, in a three week residency spanning multiple art forms.
Review: Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work by David Hoyle
Where We Are Now by David Hoyle – Photo: Aviva Studios

David Hoyle, better known to many by his alter-ego, The Divine David, is a multidisciplinary artist, actor and cabaret star. Hoyle grew up in 1960s Blackpool and developed his artistry in Manchester’s queer nightlife scene. Having become a mainstay of Manchester’s alternative settings, Hoyle took The Divine David to Channel 4, where his outlandish skits captivated audiences. Hoyle’s vast, and diverse body of work is now being celebrated in a new programme, Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work.

Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work, is a part retrospective, part residency, at Manchester’s Aviva Studios. The exhibition will run for three weeks, accompanied by several live events, including a live, outdoor painting, and a cabaret show finale.

Hoyle has certainly made his mark on Aviva Studios. On entering the venue, visitors are immediately greeted by Hoyle’s presence, in the form of newly commissioned works hanging from the ceiling, a playlist curated by the artist, and large-scale photographs plastered over the venue’s doors. The photos, which Hoyle describes as something akin to a child pressing their face against the window of a sweet shop, give a sense of what is to come. The feeling of being an outsider, always looking in, is something which is channelled in some of Hoyle’s work, which draws on his experience of homophobia and bullying, as well as class and regional inequalities in the UK.

Behind a huge curtain, emblazoned with another photograph of the artist, viewers are welcomed to a warmly lit space, showcasing a selection of Hoyle’s visual art. The works, which are characterised by their use of vibrant colours and striking lettering, have a playful energy, but closer inspection reveals a heavier side. The exhibition covers themes which have been central to Hoyle’s practice, such as mental health, AIDS, and the effects of capitalism.

David Hoyle, Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work at Aviva Studios – Credit: Lee Baxter @ Aviva Studios PR

One of the most intriguing elements of Hoyle’s work is the appropriation of everyday materials, used for varying effects. Many of his provocative slogans are set against a background of mismatched leaflets and packaging, which the artist describes as a nod to the implication of all of us in the consumerist cycle. Take Triptych after Shelley, each segment of the work features a bold statement, layered over an assorted collection of gig flyers, food wrappers and scratch cards amongst other things. The effect is a visual feast, eagle-eyed visitors will enjoy poring over the works and dissecting the references within them, but Hoyle’s deft rendering of phrases allows the message of his work to stand proud.

Triptych After Shelley (iii) by David Hoyle – Credit: Aviva Studios PR

Though stylistically different, the artist’s self-portrait, Self Portrait Diazepam, also employs a mixed-media approach. Hoyle uses the guidance note from a box of tablets as the background to a sketchy depiction of himself. Self Portrait (Diazepam) is indicative of the clever use of layering in Hoyle’s work. Much like the triptych, no background space is wasted, every element of the canvas gives an insight into the artist, his circumstances, and his surroundings.

Despite the weight of many of the topics Hoyle raises in his work, the exhibition still allows his sense of humour to come through. Visitors can watch a short piece of Hoyle’s performance art, following his canonisation as ‘St David of the Avant-Garde’. The event, which took place at Manchester Art Gallery in 2022, sees Hoyle canonised by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a worldwide order of queer nuns, seeing him placed alongside the likes of Derek Jarman. The piece gives a real insight into the joy that Hoyle finds in creativity, and unabashed self-expression, and captures Hoyle’s infectious spiritedness.

Please Feel Free to Ignore My Work is a thought-provoking exhibition which succeeds in its retrospective quality, while demonstrating the ongoing, and evolving relevance of Hoyle’s work. The exhibition is on show at Aviva Studios until April 28 2024.

Grace Buckley

Grace Buckley

Arts Editor

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