Saturday, 6 August 2016


CHARLIE SMITH LONDON was delighted to present John Stark’s DoL Po.

John Stark X Rebecca & Mike | Workers Hammer | 2016 | Oil on wood panel 

Stark is known for his highly laboured oil paintings which for the past decade have served as conduits to explore a universe of interconnected ideas. Past exhibitions have investigated themes including witchcraft, warfare, alchemy, apiculture, shamanism and imperialism. Stark's paintings could be viewed as a kind of ideological battleground where binary oppositions such as light and dark; animus and anima; cruelty and desire; control and abandonment; violence and transformation vie for territorial gain over the other. At the heart of his latest enquiry are the notions of value; the transference of energy; and a calling into question of the structures in society where exchange takes place.

Beasts of England IV | 2016 | Oil on wood panel | 96x122cm

The title of this exhibition alludes to Stark’s current analysis. DoL – The Division of Labour – refers to the socio-economic model whereby manufacture is broken down into component parts in order to increase productivity. Po – a term coined by Edward de Bono as part of his lateral thinking techniques, to encourage the progression of ideas towards solutions. Therefore, in contrast to tendencies in the digital age, we are encouraged to move from the abbreviated to the expansive. Stark asks us to look further, beyond the image and the instantaneous.

Flashpoint | 2016 | Oil on wood panel | 60x50cm

Nuke Descending | 2016 | Oil on wood panel | 90x67cm
In this exhibition we are presented with paintings of veiled beekeepers, pig farms, military drones, robotics and scenes of nuclear contamination. Elsewhere a prehistoric femur bone propped in a trompe l'oeil niche signifies a worker’s hammer. In the two faced ‘Medium of Exchange’ an untenanted glove conceals and reveals a coin, simultaneously referring to the phases of the moon. There is an element of puppetry at play, and a sense that the figures within these works are being remotely piloted by other forces. As Paul Carey-Kent asks in his exhibition text ‘Stark Realities’:

Harvest | 2016 | Oil on wood panel (framed) | 40x50cm

Exit | 2016 | Oil on wood panel (framed) | 22x30cm

Invisible Hand | 2016 | Oil on wood panel (framed) | 30.5x40.5cm

Vampyre | 2016 | Oil on wood panel (framed) | 21x28.5cm

‘Is he suggesting what apparent contradictions lie behind the façades of our society? Might it be superstition behind Christianity? Surveillance behind technology? Medievalism behind science? Militarism behind capitalism?’

To this end Stark takes a holistic approach and states, ‘I am searching for a wisdom older than the patent presence of a meaning, a meaning buried deep within the enigma of the paintings.’

Old Spotter | 2016 | Oil on wood panel (framed) | 26x30cm

Wage War | 2016 | Oil on wood panel | 58x70cm
To complement the exhibition a bespoke catalogue with sandpaper dust jacket, conceived in collaboration with Rebecca and Mike, has been published and copies remain available through the gallery. The catalogue features an essay by Paul Carey Kent and a dialogic text between Stark and David Graeber, author of ‘Debt, the first 5000 years’. Stark has also made his first co-operative paintings, and as part of his pre-exhibition activity has reclaimed Comet Linear 252P. Comet DoL Po, as it is now known, came into view for observers in the Northern Hemisphere during the final days of March 2016.

John Stark X Rebecca & Mike | Medium of Exchange | 2016 | Oil on wood panel | 42x33.5cm (x 2 + plinth)


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