The exhibition, National Geographic, with its connotations of discovery, adventure and knowledge, its vast repository of subject matter -The world- here brings together four young artists whose works defy simple contextual definition. Using inspiration from the everyday, they create an entirely new and unfamiliar constituency of elements, encouraging the viewer to momentarily inhabit new realities, self-contained worlds of their creation. The artists’ forensic use of source material and imagery encapsulate moments that bridge identity and location, allowing the viewer to reflect on the pragmatic real world from a surreal standpoint. Through a broad amalgamation of references, the works connect the emotional with material side of life, bringing the viewer full circle to the awareness of a hyper-reality.
Maria von Köhler’s artistic practice is characterized by skillfully crafted, figurative fiberglass sculptures that perform as somewhat disturbing, artificial monuments to a homogenized yet un-penetrable and evasive ideology. Referencing historical, religious and political iconography in art, media and pop-culture, von Köhler examines the portrayal of heroic or propagandist figures, acts and symbols in their countless forms and the relevance of meaning they supposedly embody.
Alain Miller typifies his work as a form of expanded ‘portraiture’, sampling and addressing terms of identity. He collapses physiognomy with physiology and creates uncanny, disquieting images. However it is not so much the surreal qualities in his paintings, as the influence of French author Raymond Roussel, that aligns Miller with surrealists. Roussel’s famous work Impressions of Africa (1910) was written according to formal constraints based on homonymic puns. On what he describes as a collision course with the thinking and writing of Roussel, Miller follows a processing system of his own to compose and develop his ‘portraiture’.
John Summers’ sculptural works are the result of an intense physical ritual and exploration of material, currently rough concrete grit and metallic foil played off against fluorescent transparent nylon and wire. Assembled found objects and leftover debris from the outside world are morphed into a seemingly inchoate mass that belies a sophisticated order and control. Form, weight and balance are held in tension in tightly constructed precarious harmony. Resting uneasily, the heavy solid forms are like asteroids, apparently organic and yet otherworldly.
John Tiney’s meticulous execution of acrylic on board contrasts strongly with the areas of rough surface he leaves bare, further juxtaposed by the strict graphic outlines and his loose painterly style. From the visual overdrive of consumer imagery, Tiney mixes references from found photos, book illustration, the web and sub-culture, seemingly at random. Through a synthesis of found and reworked images he creates an uneasy environment that merges tension with high-pop humour, revealing his own twisted mythologies in psychedelic fantasy realms.