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In 2005 David Griggs undertook an Asialink Visual Arts Residency in Manila in the Philippines. But en route to Thailand he contracted a mystery illness. ‘When authorities discovered me vomiting into the plant boxes near the baggage claim
I was swiftly escorted to airport quarantine’, says Griggs. ‘The next seven days I spent in hospital under the supervision of a Dr Picazo. As I drifted in and out of nightmarish hallucinations, Dr Picazo became Pablo Picasso. As illness fuelled anxiety, my mental stability took a shaking. Could a dead painting legend be trusted to make an accurate medical diagnosis?’
His mind wiped clean by the illness, Griggs’ residency took a new direction and he produced an installation about ‘new experiences and the unfamiliar territory of the everyday’. Entitled The Buko Police (The Coconut Police), the exhibition combined handmade and manufactured objects with a selection of paintings and photographs. Back in Sydney, Griggs decided to make a new series of eight large-scale paintings about his experiences in Manila. Painted almost directly from photographs shown in The Buko Police, the series kept him in the studio for 12 months and was exhibited at the Kaliman Gallery last December as The bleeding hearts club.
‘With this work I wanted to tell of the living nightmare I had endured in the hospital’, says Griggs. ‘It is more than a portrait of the external, it’s a portrait of the internal: of my mental and physical torment during this time. It’s about fear, death, faith and too many cigarettes.’
Born in Sydney in 1975, Griggs has exhibited regularly in solo and group shows since 1996. In 2006 he was represented in Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in Exchanging culture for flesh at AGNSW, and at the TarraWarra Museum of Art Biennial in Victoria. This year he will undertake a residency at the Australia Council’s Barcelona studio.