For his solo exhibition at Cubitt, Flo Brooks has made a series of paintings which explore the intersections between family, community and place. Made over the past year, the newly commissioned works recall biographical scenarios of intimate everyday scenes between Brooks and his family. Reflecting the specific circumstances of his life, the works question, provoke and interweave ideas around remoteness, care-giving, the absence and presence of (queer) community, and the hormonally and chemically altered body.
This snapshot of life is a personal one. Brooks is a trans person who recently moved back to the South West of England, the place where he grew up, leaving behind London and its support structures: queer and trans communities and many of his friends.
The paintings depict widely recognisable domestic scenes alongside the minutia and intricacies of a very specific experience. Whilst creating the work in this show Brooks was undergoing Hormone Replacement Treatment (HRT) and subsequently managing the complexities of entering a second puberty as an adult. His main access to transgender and queer spaces was online and forced to co-exist within the familiar, normative structures of the ‘home’. Moving back to the place he grew up also involved new and unexpected responsibilities of caregiving, emotional and physical labour and finding out what it means to live together once again.
Figurative appendages and structural supports spurt out from the edges of the paintings, compositionally dividing space, serving as a central metaphor for the physical and psychological partitions we erect to keep different parts of our lives from meeting and inevitably shifting or collapsing under the weight. The bottle of lube, the birthday card from his grandmother, the tin of opened cat food, the stand-to-pee device, they’re not supposed to meet, but what happens if and when they do?
In titling the exhibition Is now a good time? Brooks asks, with equal levels of humour and sincerity, how we determine when the time is good, or right, for anything. Touching on a question that’s often assumptively asked of him: “do you feel happier now [you’ve transitioned]?”, Brooks draws attention to the narratives often ascribed to trans people, and asks why we place so much value on certainty and resolve. The exhibition describes a way of living and being whereby partitions deteriorate and things meet awkwardly, sometimes painfully, where impotence and insecurity can generate ingenuity, and where queer ways of being can endure and even thrive in surprising places.