The Shock of the Now Issue 66
Featured Exhibition Text
Elliot Fox
‘PYSCHO GEOLOGY’ Solo Exhibition
Anderson Contemporary
7th December 2022

Every six months or so territorial internet tabloid Cornwall Live runs a starling story, referencing either the ‘invisible killer gas’ or ‘incredibly high radiation levels’ supposedly running rampant across the county. All doomsaying aside, Cornwall does indeed have higher levels of radon gas than any other area of the United Kingdom, and it is this radiation that serves as the pervasive protagonist of Elliot Fox‘s current solo exhibition 'PSYCHO GEOLOGY’, curated by Georgia Stephenson at Anderson Contemporary. Were he a musician, Fox’s latest offering would be considered his concept album, as the artist grounds the exhibition in a fictitious narrative befitting of a cultish conspiracy theory or a subversive Adam Curtis documentary. Here, west Cornwall’s supposed radioactive adversary, unknowingly unleashed during a prolific period of industrial mining, acts as the catalyst for much of the county’s geographical, socio-economical and cultural condition. The unseen source of a certain idyllic insanity that spurred on the creation of stone circles, and gave rise to the dominance of surfing and surf culture.

Applying a pseudo-science-fiction approach to depicting the past, present and future, where predicting the future is accepted as equally a futile endeavour as trying to accurately record the past, Fox draws from that particularly provincial home-made history-making, reliant on oral retellings of tall tales and passed down archaic archives. Lines between fact and folklore blur as the artist’s own fictional account becomes itself mythologised. Ultimately, the story is told only in snippets, captured in scraps of digitised documentation, surreal surfboard stickers, sculptural standing stones and a sound piece that serves as the exhibition’s accompanying score. 

Fox’s digital paintings become portals to a misremembered past, printed on illusory reflective material and encased in iridescent aluminium frames. Encompassing everything everything all at once, they present a concertinaed Cornish timeline, dense and layered like the perfect baker’s lamination, as if taking an x-ray to the history books. Elsewhere, psychedelic acid-tab tablets, all organic shapes and smooth corners, are fabricated from surfboards, recognisable to those in the know only by their central stringer or flailing, deformed fins. Echoing the DIY ethos of surf subculture, each is adorned with the artist’s own stickers, rife with Celtic mythological motifs, common Cornish insignia and satirical slogans such as Gas’d And Glas’d. Finally, Fox’s wall-based metal sculptures - part Neoliolitic landscape maquettes, part futuristic man-made machines - play host to an aerial view of the Iron Age village Chysauster etched in wooden relief, Wheal Coates tin mine and a Gurnard’s Head ruin flocked as mossy miniatures and a faux grass Gwennap Pit (the sunken site of John Peel’s seminal Sounds Of The Suburbs interview with Cornish musical menhir Aphex Twin). The culmination of a warped world-building exercise, all held together by welds you can see your reflection in.