Articles Tagged with: Benjamin murphy

Envy For The Living – Benjamin Murphy – *SOLD OUT*

It has been four years since Benjamin Murphy released his last woodcut, which proved to be his most popular print to date. We are very excited to announce that his newest woodcut ENVY FOR THE LIVING is available NOW!

envy for the living

 

Benjamin’s prints always sell fast, and he was recently included in Stylist Magazines list of hot new art prints, with his immensely popular linoprint from 2018 Hamartia.

 

Envy for the living - benjamin murphy

Hamartia (2018) – Linoprint – Stylist Magazine

ENVY FOR THE LIVING is an 50x70cm woodcut, which has been hand drawn, cut, and printed by the artist, using a Victorian printing press from the early 1900s.

It is printed on the highest quality Norfolk 210gsm cartridge paper, using archival printmaking inks.
In a limited edition of only 15

 

(THIS PRINT IS NOW SOLD OUT)

 

Within the print, Murphy has included background references to Henri Matisse, Vanitas Painting, Ancient Greek sculpture, and Piet Mondrian. As usual, the title is taken from a work of classic literature, this time from Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.


Creative Restlessness – A conversation between Benjamin Murphy and Kevin Perkins

Creative Restlessness – A conversation between Benjamin Murphy and Kevin Perkins

 

I was first made aware of Kevin’s work through social media and I was struck by his boundless energy for experimentation. Whilst undertaking this wild experimentation, his work retained a feel that was unmistakably his. I have exhibited, and exhibited his work a few times before our upcoming show A Long Way From Home (With Igor Moritz), and in each show he has exhibited a different form of painting. Each of these, however, are executed with an expert precision, whilst also displaying a wonderful expressiveness and economy of gesture. I decided to have a chat to him ahead of the show we did with him back in January, about his work, and his approach to making in general.

 

Kevin Perkins

Utilising the unusual medium of coloured pencil on salvaged book covers; the portraits depict (mostly) lone sitters smoking, drinking tea, reflected in mirrors or simply ‘being’ and certainly give the nod to a golden era of twentieth century European painting. The surfaces of the book covers themselves lend an almost canvas-like quality to the images, and also help to add a beautiful ageing affect to the colour. Through these works, Perkins continues to develop his excellent ability to reference and draw from art-history, producing nostalgic works that drip with both playfulness and charisma.

 

[Benjamin Murphy] – Firstly – why are you an artist?

 

[Kevin Perkins] – I originally started painting out of necessity. I got hired to teach high school painting classes with no real background in painting. I’d watch YouTube videos and read tutorials before every class and then make a demo of whatever concept I was trying to teach. That turned into a real practice. I was looking at a massive amount of art and decided that I wanted to try and be a real artist, whatever that means.

 

I felt like an imposter for a long time. But now I guess I make work out of what I like to think of as a creative restlessness.

 

[BM] – Is this perhaps why you are experimenting so much within your practice?

 

[KP] – Oh yeah. Definitely.  I tend to have a hard time staying put in one specific approach to my work. I’m not really interested in creating the same kind of work over and over. I don’t care if that’s what sells, I make the work for myself, to fulfill a need that I have.

 

[BM] – I think the driving force for most artists is a need for experimentation, even if their work remains on a similar track. Where do you see your work going in future?

 

[KP] – I tend to not think about the future of my work. It’s a very in the moment kind of thing. Though I’m interested in moving into sculpture but haven’t had the space or time to figure out what that looks like for me.

 

[BM] – So where does your imagery come from?

 

[KP] – I cobble together images that I’ve found from my stockpile of old books, magazines publications, and photographs, as well as the occasional internet find, life drawings, and reimagining of master works. I don’t really seek out imagery for the work often. Instead, if I stumble across something that may work I’ll tuck it back until I’m ready for it.

 

[BM] – How in control would you say of how the paintings ultimately end up looking, do you have a ideal aesthetic in mind or is your process more experimental?

 

[KP] – The idea of an ideal aesthetic is something that I don’t put much stock in because it’s always changing. But to say that my work is experimental is reaching too far. Achieving consistency is not something I concern myself with. I produce work and it inevitably looks like my work. It may be influenced by someone or some thing that I’ve consumed but the way I apply paint, the rhythm of my hand, the energy will be evident in the work. It’s like writing letters. I don’t think about the way I write the letter “e” but if I write enough of them a pattern will emerge. In the same way, if I am true to myself and produce work that is a creative outflow of my interests, then patterns within the works will begin to form and an aesthetic that is true and uniquely mine will appear.

 

That being said, I do follow a similar process with the creation of most of my works. Which lends itself to a more consistent and specific aesthetic.

 

My drawings and studies are free and open to the whims of chance

kevin perkins

Kevin Perkins – book cover portraits

[BM] – With my work I aim to paint haptically, thinking as little about how I want it to look or what it means as possible, because I want it to mean different things to each individual viewer. Would you say that you paint in a similar way?

 

[KP] – Yes and no. I’m not so concerned about the outcome or what it means. I’d like for the work to look a certain way but that can range depending on where I am at mentally and emotionally as I’m creating the work. I make the work for myself. So to disassociate from the outcome for the sake of the viewer would be dishonest to myself and I feel that my work and my drive to make the work would suffer. I don’t care about the viewer so much. People will interact with and read into the work what they will and I’ve got no control over that.

 

[BM] – What are your intentions when you approach a canvas?

 

[KP] – I’m more interested in the creation than the outcome. Don’t get me wrong

though, the outcome is certainly an important aspect to it all. But once I’m done with the work I have no intention of returning to it. I’ve detached myself from the work. It’s served it’s purpose for me. I treat every painting like a puzzle. The enjoyment is putting it together. Once I’m done with that I could care less if it ends up in the trash or on someone’s wall. I suppose though that it’s nice to make a little money so that I can keep up the insanity of making work.

 

Maybe I’m being too honest.

 

[BM] – Yeah I can totally see what you mean, for me it’s all about the process. Once it’s finished and framed it feels almost as if it was done by someone else.

 

[KP] – So how do you feel about your most recent works, and did you alter your approach in any way knowing that this was a two-person show?

 

Yes I did. I was more open and free with my use of color. Igor has a beautiful sense of color and I guess my works needed a bit of a boost in order to stand in the same space as his.

 

[BM] – Is that the first time you’ve worked in this way?

 

[KP] – I feel like I’ve been edging toward it for a while.

 

[BM] – Can you tell us a little about the works you created for the show?

 

[KP] – I messed around with form a lot in this body of work. These paintings move in and out of refinement. Some of the work is incredibly unrefined, for example one of my self portraits was done in one take, drawn while only looking in the mirror and never at the canvas (blind contour). Another work, one of the nudes, was left as an unpolished charcoal drawing. And then there of course were more refined renderings in other works in the show.

 

The enjoyment for me comes in pushing the figures and the spaces that they inhabit beyond the norms of portraiture. Portraits are tricky, I’m never really trying to paint a specific person the way they actually look. I’m more considering the narrative around them and how that comes across in the work.

 

In retrospect, the paintings here emphasize the process, and the history, of how I work. As I stated earlier, I don’t like to think much about how someone may interpret the work. My interest in it lies in the development, the making of the works.

kevin perkins

Kevin Perkins – Book cover drawing

Kevin’s book cover works will be released as a catalogue via Kunst Katalog soon, follow their profile via the hyperlink for more details.

The other artist in our show with Kevin Perkins was Igor Moritz, read Benjamin’s conversation with him [HERE]

Originally published in AfterNyne Magazine.


Faded Glory – San Francisco

Our most recent show Faded Glory opened a few weeks ago in San Francisco at Book&Job gallery in the Tenderloin district. It was a two-person show with artists Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson, who although have collaborated many times before, have never done a two-person show together until now.

San francisco - faded glory

Below are some install shots of the show. Big thanks to the amazing Carson Lancaster for inviting us to host a show at Book&Job Gallery, and thanks to everyone who visited the show.

San francisco - faded glory

 

In 2018 we hosted Carson’s debut UK solo show Lost Coast, which you can see [HERE]

 

 


Mizog Art Podcast – Benjamin Murphy

One of our directors (Benjamin Murphy) was recently interviewed by Gary Mansfield on the newest episode of the Mizog Art Podcast. On it, he discusses his own work, as well as giving some insight as to why him and Nick JS Thompson decided to start Delphian Gallery.

mizog podcast

As well as this, he drops some exciting hints about the hotly awaited upcoming Delphian Podcast.

Listen to it HERE

For more interviews with the Delphian Directors, check out this one with Arrested Motion.


Faded Glory – Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson in San Francisco

Our next show Faded Glory opens next month in San Francisco!

This is the first fully-collaborative exhibition between artists and Delphian Gallery directors Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson.

Faded Glory - Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson

Faded Glory – Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson

Since 2012, the pair have collaborated in many ways, including founding the peripatetic gallery Delphian, which has gone on to have a string of sold-out shows since its inception in 2018.

Despite their long history of collaboration, Faded Glory will be the first time that the immensely different styles of work from the two artists has sat together in a way in which the works coalesce to form one coherent whole. The similarities enhance the differences, which allows the autonomous works to add to, and to contradict, one another in a way that enhances each through the union of both.

In this show, the paintings by Murphy will be hung atop, within, and below the photography by Thompson, so as to deconstruct the barrier between each.

The experimental curatorial style that is so synonymous with Delphian will make its presence known, as the two artist/ curators will apply their signature curatorial style to their own works for the first time. Faded Glory is a show about how the perceived differences between two separate processes can sit symbiotically, making the whole more than the sum of its parts.

The Exhibition opens at Book And Job Gallery in San Francisco on the 7th of February, and runs until the 13th.

To RSVP for the private view, please go HERE


More from Benjamin Murphy HERE

More From Nick JS Thompson HERE


Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0

Marina Abramovic – Rhythm 0

Words and illustration by Benjamin Murphy – Originally published in AfterNyne Magazine

Marina Abramovic - Rhythm 0

Sketch by Benjamin Murphy

In 1974, twenty three year old Serbian-born artist Marina Abramovic created the most poignant and shocking performance artwork to date. Rhythm 0 was a captivating social experiment, and one that has still not been surpassed 43 years later.

 

Gallery visitors were met with a standing but immobile Abramovic, beside her a table containing a plethora of seventy-two seemingly unconnected objects. Some were clearly intended to give pleasure: a rose, grapes, perfume, and a feather were included. Some others were more sinister: a whip, nails, a razorblade, scissors, a pistol, and a single bullet.

The audience was then asked to explore the objects and use them upon her body in any way they wish, whilst for the next six hours all responsibility for their actions was assumed by Marina.

 

 

Placed upon the table was the following text.

Instructions.

There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.

Performance.

I am the object.

During this period I take full responsibility.

 

Duration: 6 hours (8 pm – 2 am)

 

At first, the crowd was sheepish and their actions innocuous, giving her the rose to hold and generally not doing much. After a while, mob-mentality took control and the crowd got more vicious. With tears streaming down her cheeks Abramovic stood immobile and stoic whilst her clothes were cut off (in a similar way to Yoko Ono’s Cut Piecefrom ten years before) and her neck was sliced with a razorblade. The man who cut her then leant forwards and placed his lips to the fresh wound and drank her blood. It left a scar that she still has to this day. She was touched in intimate places, and according to art critic Thomas McEvilley “…she would not have resisted rape or murder”.

In the post-apocalyptic dystopia we see so often in books and films, once state authority is removed society becomes feral and vicious.

 

One visitor put the bullet in the pistol and placed it in her hand pointing at her own neck, no doubt willing her to pull the trigger. At this point even the gallery staff thought the work had gone too far, and “went crazy”, grabbing the gun and throwing it out of the window. All the time Abramovic never moved.

She was picked up and carried to a table, placed upon it, and had a kitchen knife thrust between her legs into the wood of the table, in a symbolic gesture that symbolizes both rape and murder.

Abramovic’s ability to transcend physical and psychological pain through sheer mental strength is astounding, but it is not the main focal point of this work.

Marina Abramovic - Rhythm 0

What makes this work so frightening is that it took a simple absolution of guilt for this randomly collected cross section of society to resort to viciousness and disregard for human life. It calls to mind the Milgram experiment, in which volunteers were informed that they were required to electrocute another volunteer. The volunteers were unaware that the experimenter and the person being electrocuted were in cahoots, and any response to electrocution was staged. The confederate would be asked questions, and any incorrect answer was met with an electric shock – increasing in power for every subsequent shock.

 

In this experiment, the volunteer was absolved any responsibility, and therefore continued to obey the instructor, despite the obvious danger. Many of the participants showed visible signs of distress throughout, and were clearly complying begrudgingly.

It was an experiment to see if obedience to authority would overrule the volunteer’s conscience, and their natural fears for another’s safety. It questions whether the volunteers could be considered accomplices to the act, and was inspired by the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, just three months before.

 

In Rhythm 0 however, not only did the viewers enact ‘real horror’, but they did so with relish. The audience was not acting under orders from an authority figure as they were in the Milgram Experiment, but were given the authority to act autonomously. In the Milgram experiment, most of the volunteers protested the instructions and showed many signs of extreme distress, but in Rhythm 0 they seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

 

One would expect that the participants would display reticence to act freely due to the Hawthorne Effect (the modification or dilution of ones natural behavior due to the knowledge that one is being observed), but this is actually not the case, as the participants showed an eagerness to experiment in ever increasing gradations of severity.

It is also possible that the absolution of responsibility allowed the spectators to play out some of their darkest fantasies. The symbolic hematophagy is suggestive of the participant assuming power or control over Abramovic, and asserting their dominance.

 

They saw Marina as an object, and they played with her sadistically like a cat with a mouse. They were also required to use their own creativity when deciding in which way the objects were used, and it is surprising how quickly they abandoned the safe objects in favor of the truly dangerous ones. The dehumanization that occurs is in part due to Abramovic’s immobility, in part due to her silence, and in part due to the acts of objectification enacted upon her by other members of the crowd. It is in part because the spectators saw their contemporaries enacting hostilities that they felt able to also.

She took some of the ideas originally explored just 13 years prior, and took them to their most extreme point.

 

Marina Abramovic - Rhythm 0

Marina Abramovic – Rhythm 0

 

Performance art is similar in many ways to theatre, but as Abramovic has shown there are some subtle but definite differences. Horror within the theatre is inauthentic, but at least in some cases, within performance art it is real.

 

In 1891 Oscar Wilde explored this topic in his essay The Critic As Artist.

“…Art does not hurt us. The tears that we shed at a play are a type of the exquisite sterile emotion that it is the function of art to awaken. We weep, but we are not wounded. We grieve, but our grief is not bitter.”

 

Almost a hundred years later, Abramovic proved this to be incorrect.

 

For more critique by Benjamin Murphy

Chris Burden – Dormant Chaos

Santiago Sierra – The Strangeness of Reality

Conversation with Billy Childish


Lucas Price – Body Body

Lucas Price is currently exhibiting as part of the inaugural Bangkok Art Bienalle until Feb 2019, with the video work Body Body. 
We decided to catch up with him and discuss the emotive, and brutally honest work.
Lucas Price - Body Body

Lucas Price – Body Body

Can you please explain a little about what the video is about, and how you came to make it?
The video is a long series of screen tests of people who at the time of recording were immigrants in Thailand. I was recovering from a stay at a temple, where I had gone to detox from heroin. I felt that my body was under attack, from itself in a way, had been colonised by this thing. So I was thinking about that and the various ways people’s bodies are prone to pressure. I began by recording my drug dealer, then moved outward and began to record his friends, their peers, tourists, diplomats etc. I wanted to make something about my relationship to Bangkok, and it ended up being about being an outsider. So, it’s about that and moving through the world and how the body is coming and going in amongst all of this.
Body Body is obviously an incredibly personal project for you, how have you reconciled making the private public, and how did you decide what to include and what to omit?
I really feel that its a universal set of principles I’m trying to sort out. Like we all have to abide inside of our bodies. And we’re all trying to keep the show on the road. There are personal references, but I think it’s worth being honest if it means that somehow it allows for more of the same? That’s certainly my experience. Other people’s honesty makes room for my own. I don’t know if this works in the same way but it’s partly the intention.
Who are the people in the video, and how much has been explained to them about the project before filming?
The people in the film were…everyone was street cast. I made a studio in the back of a truck which I drove around Bangkok for a week. We went to slums on the outskirts, the hi so areas, the red light district, chinatown. Suburbs, tourist traps, immigration centres. Everyone was made aware that the film was a simple series of portraits, to be screened in a gallery. It was very ad-hoc but everyone was made aware of the nature of the project and I had consent throughout. The most interesting and eager to participate were the african sex workers, who at the time were under an enormous amount of pressure as the result of a crackdown by the Thai police called operation Black Eagle. They were rounded up every couple of nights and extorted or intimidated, squeezed for cash and then ultimately deported or sent to immigration centres on the way to being deported. I think they were the limit expression of that idea of being placed under extreme amounts of pressure.
There are a lot of mentions of the sea and drowning – both in a sinister, foreboding way, but also in a cleansing and regenerating way. What is the significance of water within this particular piece?
The sea…idk, it’s just a good place to be. A large body. It unified a lot of the experiences I have of travelling and being dislocated. It’s also…I was thinking about this idea of experience and awareness, of waves being parts of a whole thing..the wave is not the ocean, the ocean contains all the waves. Also shout out to The Waves by Virginia Woolf.
Do you see this work as being redemptive in any way, or is it a cathartic experience revealing such personal details?
I think the details aren’t so important as maybe trying to be honest and even earnest? I mean I’m cynical, and I don’t know whether the film is successful in any meaningful way…at least in the way I originally intended, but if I think about what is at stake, for me it’s certainly about being honest…like congruous or something.

It’s not about redemption, as much as making sense post meltdown. And whatever works in those conditions right? I’ve chastised myself for including my own stuff in my work in the past but…it’s like Nan Goldin or Brad Phillips. I like that honesty, it’s healing.

 

 

Check out his Instagram HERE

 

 

(Interview by Benjamin Murphy)

FOR MORE INTERVIEWS, CHECK OUT:

JORDY KERWICK

HAYDEN KAYS

KLAUS BUSCH RISVIG

 


Tracey Emin – A Fortnight Of Tears

Tracey Emin – A Fortnight Of Tears

Chronicling the most recent developments in Tracey Emin’s practice, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ opens at White Cube Bermondsey in February 2019.

This major exhibition spans the entire gallery and brings together new painting, photography, large-scale sculpture, film and neon text, all stemming from the artist’s deeply personal memories and emotions ranging from loss, grief, longing and spiritual love.

Three monumental, bronze sculptural figures, the largest Emin has produced to date, are shown alongside her lyrical and expressive paintings. Developed through a process of drawing, the paintings are then intensely reworked and added to, layer upon layer.

Tracey Emin - A Fortnight Of Tears

Tracey Emin – A Fortnight Of Tears

White Cube also debuts a new photographic series by Emin titled ‘Insomnia’. Selected from thousands of self-portraits taken by the artist on her iPhone over the last couple of years, these images spontaneously capture prolonged periods of restlessness and inner turmoil.

Filmmaking has been an integral part of Emin’s career for over 20 years. To mark this, the artist will show a new film as well as the key early work How It Feels (1996), a candid and moving account of her abortions that changed her whole approach to making art.

 

For more great art exhibitions on right now, see this review of Chris Burden at Gagosian by Benjamin Murphy HERE

For more about Tracey Emin, see the White Cube website HERE


Dormant Chaos – Chris Burden at Gagosian

Dormant Chaos – Chris Burden at Gagosian by Benjamin Murphy

(Originally published in AfterNyne Magazine)

 

Chris Burden - Gagosian

 

In their latest show, Gagosian gallery is isolating two works from Chris Burden’s retrospective at New Museum in New York in 2013, and presenting them together in their Brittania Street gallery. Entitled Measured, the show speaks of symmetry, bringing together two works that exist via the equality of weight between two opposing objects. In Porsche With Meteorite, a genuine nickel-iron meteorite counterbalances a restored Porsche 914.

This work is one which suggests immense, and yet dormant, power. The power of the sports-car is curtailed and it is left sitting idly, as if weightless, whilst the meteorite sits cold upon the opposing end of the fulcrums arm. These two objects have had past lives that were incredibly high-octane, for Burden’s restoration of a vintage car rather than the selection of a showroom floor model is not merely serendipitous. These objects have been imbued with an immense power, which through his transfiguration, have become impotent in their stillness. They seem to have lost their virility, and sit immobile, suspended in time.

 

The meteorite is only twenty percent of the weight of the car, and for this reason the beam that supports both is much longer on the meteorites end. It is a purpose-built structure that towers overhead, telescopic – although the lack of registration-marks on the uniform oxidisation suggests that this functionality is only for show; it has potential, but this potential will never be actualised. The vehicles have been painstakingly restored to their former perfection, whilst the oxidised steel components, display an artificial history that in the vehicles js genuine, but obscured.

 

The viewer is at once struck with the delicacy of the work, and yet feels insecure in the potential for danger. In many ways both works in Measuredare redolent of his 1996 work The Flying Steamroller, in which a twelve-tonne steamroller is attached to a pivoted arm, counterbalanced on the opposite side. In the middle of the arm, there is a rotating fulcrum that allows the steamroller to lift off the ground and float in the air once it has reached a high enough velocity for the counterweight to elevate it. In this work the potential for unmitigated disaster is very real, and it is impossible to not be struck by the delicacy with which this immensely dangerous event is taking place. The steamroller glides serenely through the air like a bird.

Chris Burden - Gagosian

The other work in the show, One-Ton Crane Truck is a refurbished Ford truck counterbalanced with a purpose-built single tonne cube, which contrasts with and exemplifies the exotic nature of the meteorite. In this work, the vehicle is a rudimentary machine used for laborious work, which is diametrically opposed to the extravagent sports-car in the other room. This juxtaposition of the functional and familiar robustness of the crane truck and cube, with the exoticsports car and meteorite, seems to highlight the intrinsic qualities of each by playing them off against one another. The sports car appears all the more luxurious and fast, whilst the truck speaks of rigidity and strength. This piece is slightly less successful than its counterpart however, and as was suggested to me by a friend, a bit ‘cartoony’. The one-tonne weight is a rather arbritrary measurement, as the trucks front wheels are planted firmly on the ground. Were they to be lifted ever-so-slightly off the floor, the work would have been immeasurably powerful, but alas, that is not the case. Having the counterweight a purpose-built cube, as opposed to a magical, extra-terrestrial chunk of metal, diminishes this work somewhat. It does however, suggest that this work means something different to its opposite, in that here the work suggests industry and industrialization, grounded in the real, laborious world. The other has a magical, almost fairytale quality, and is suggestive of some kind of freedom (or its lack thereof). It is not that either work critiques or diminishes the other, rather that they both speak of similar ideas, in opposing ways.

 

Burden’s early work was chaotic and reckless, but never haphazard. There was a raw energy and freedom to his performance works that now, because of his untimely death, will never be seen again. This show has a somber quietness to it, that when viewed after the artist’s premature death, screams of lost potential. The cars potential as a conduit to immense power and freedom is left suspended, and isolated from the very ground that gives it its meaning. In this however, it is imbued it with a newer, more abstract power. The meteorite appears as if lassoed out of the sky, hung upon a metal gallows and displayed in all its impotence, energy lost irretrievably.

 

In Burden’s earlier work, he put himself at great physical danger and exposed himself to actual bodily harm for his works.Towards the end of his career, he made works that placed the viewer in arenas of potential danger, with The Big Wheel and Steamroller, where there always seemed that chaos was ready to break free. In these works presented in Measured, the chaos and energy that could ensue has long passed, and now lays dormant within these objects, perfectly suspended to reflect that an equilibrium has been reached between chaos and calm. The gallery has a stillness that heightens the balance of the two works, both individually with the literal balance between objects, but also the way in which both works discourse with each other.

 

As Mark Rothko once said, “complete equilibrium is death”, and within these works, it is the perfect symmetry of both that each nullifies the power of its opposite. All ordered systems strive towards chaos, and these equal and opposing forces arrest this eagerness for disorder, creating a stunted equilibrium redolent of serenity. It is a stale serenity however, as each work calls to mind a lost potential, which when read in the post-Burden landscape, echoes of loss.

 

 

For more by Benjamin:

Santiago Sierra – The Strangeness of Reality

For more details about the show:

Gagosian Website


Art Aesthetics Review of Diary Of An Introvert

Art Aesthetics magazine have recently reviewed our solo show with Australian painter Jordy Kerwick. Read what they had to say below…

Kerwick’s still lifes are the perfect foil to the quixotic ideals of the artist. He only started painting in 2015, but has risen in truly meteoric fashion having already exhibited as far and wide as New York and San Francisco in the United States, and Paris, Cologne and Hamburg in Europe despite working from Melbourne, Australia. We finally caught up with Kerwick’s first solo UK show, Diary of an Introvert, in South London. I was accompanied, charitably, by Aistè, who generously made time for me having just released a new single, ‘My Only Friend’.

Our destination was Delphian Gallery: the itinerant art space founded by Nick Thompson and Benjamin Murphy. Their brisk existence requires that one show’s success entails the next show’s very premises. (They needn’t worry, Kerwick has done exceptionally well with only a couple of paintings remaining for sale.) So we went to Delphian Gallery’s temporary venue at the AMP Gallery’s space in uber-cool Peckham.

Art Aesthetics

Kerwick’s paintings seem to prevaricate on the ‘artist’ as a figment of our imaginations. (They’re usually stereotyped as philosophy-thinking, chain-smoking, wine-drinking, beret-wearing Frenchies—according to my school’s careers advisor at least.) Of course, they’re not. You’ll struggle to find persons more professional and committed than artists, but bad reputations die hard. Kerwick isn’t scared of utilising these tropes, but makes for some fine self-exposition amid his own painterly equivocation. For by engaging in these tropes, the artist reflexively reveals himself.

Kerwick’s Diary of an Introvert encompasses some thirteen paintings of which twelve are still lifes. You espy geraniums and flytraps, which are usually set atop stacks of books bearing the names of other, bolder artists, thinkers, or musicians. Their spines carry Susan Sontag and Marcel Proust alongside Nick Cave and Patti Smith. (Unfortunately, these musicians aren’t quite to Aistè’s taste.) As for the artists, the works of James Ensor, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bob Thompson are a world away from Kerwick. Ensor (1860-1949) was a forerunner of Expressionism. His Tribulations of St Anthony (1887) is wildly colourful and surreal for an artist working in the 19th Century. The Fauves (a.k.a., the Wild Beasts) followed on from the Expressionists. They also influenced Bob Thompson’s vivid, but starkly flat compositions. It’s strange, then, to find these artists’ names scrawled against the dull-pastels and ochres of Kerwick, who, when interviewed by Maria Stoljar, blandly said, ‘I really like the muted earthy tones.’ But then quietly proposed that this is ‘probably not a good thing.’ Aistè thinks the same: ‘I just want more colours.’

So other than the plants and the books, what else? You sometimes look at white spots on the canvas and what appear to be unfinished cigarettes; ‘pills and cocaine,’ suggests Aistè, though she’s not really sure if Kerwick is really that kind of guy. You can see what we’re referring to in Diary of an Introvert 7 (2018). You’ve got cigarettes sitting beside the ambiguous white spots and lines on the table. Ian Curtis supports Bob Thompson who supports Basquiat upon whom rests some pink germaniums. We’ve no difficulty imagining Curtis, Thompson and Basquiat taking full advantage of the table’s wares, but not Kerwick. For they’re proper ‘tortured artists’ whose creativity was breath-taking, but quickly burnt out. You sense that Kerwick is ‘looking in’ on these artists, but too self-consciously aware that he’s not them. ‘I don’t smoke,’ he told Stoljar, ‘but you don’t want something to be too pretty and cigarettes aren’t pretty. I still look at people smoking and think it’s cool. I’m not endorsing it for one second.’

We’re accustomed to thinking of painters as cool: rebellious, penniless, alcoholic, perhaps sensitive, but always creative. It’s supposed to come at some cost: they die too soon, are melancholic if not downright mad. (Of course, the truth is rather more boring. But we’re dealing with the popular ‘image’ of the artist.)  Kerwick plays up to this by daubing ‘la paix et la tranquillité et le pressentiment’ on the side of Diary of an Introvert 4 (2018). 

Kerwick’s interview with Stoljar is enlightening. He puts much of his work down to the fear of growing old: ‘not that I was ever cool, but I just feel less cool that I was before.’ We want out artists to be misunderstood and ahead of their time like Ensor; or, tragically cut short like Basquiat; or as expressive and bold as Thompson. Yet Kerwick is none of these things. (He’s happily married with children in Melbourne, Australia.) He’s previously said that ‘home doesn’t possess wonderment for me, not like LA or Paris.’

Nowhere is Kerwick’s self-deprecating character more visibly at work than in Diary of an Introvert 2 (2018) where the works of Voltaire and Trotsky and Gertrude Stein are crowned by ‘Miniature Schnauzers’ (very cool) and supported by the simple admission, ‘I can’t paint’. Aistè reckons he means, ‘I can’t paint…like Basquiat, like Thompson, or like Ensor.’ And yet, sometimes he does. You’ll often come across a Basquiat-like mark, cypher or glyph.

Art Aesthetics

I finally think I’ve got an analogy for Kerwick: He’s more Sancho Panza than Don Quixote. In Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece (1605 & 1615) the eponymous character simply reads too many books about chivalrous heroes. So many, in fact, that he loses his mind. He takes these stories so literally that he endeavours to become a grand knight-errant in search of adventure. He’s followed by his ‘squire’ Sancho Panza who serves as the level-headed foil to the wild idealism of Don Quixote.

Kerwick’s paintings proffer Ensor, Thompson and Basquiat as so many Don Quixotes. (How many artists aspire to Basquiat?) But for Kerwick, as for Sancho, these are fictions, so many books, upon which he places his flowers and, with a forthright naïvety, simply paints. ‘It’s kind of sad,’ says Aistè. ‘I think he’d like to be just like those Expressionists and Fauves.’ I disagree, there is such derring-do in these paintings, just obliquely, perfectly referenced. For that, it’s 4/5 stars from me and 3/5 from Aistè (although she admits that maybe that’s just because she doesn’t like Nick Cave and Patti Smith).

Thanks ART AESTHETICS!

See the Art Aesthetics website HERE

And learn more about Jordy HERE, and buy his prints HERE