Post-truth news read a bit like a Kafka novel: the Queen is now a man, mini-budgets topple macro-economics, you can’t have an oven-ready cake and heat it, even fools no longer know the price of everything. According to the holy grail of fact [Wikipedia], the absurd is that which lacks a sense, often because it involves some form of contradiction.
Contradictions form the curatorial thread that links the works in ABSURD, an exhibition where nothing is quite what it seems at first sight: Lottie Stoddart’s canvases mimic ceramics, concrete masquerades as cardboard in James Lomax’ work, Ladina Clément’s weightless barbells defy reason and logic. Other examples may be less obvious in challenging our capacity to distinguish between certainty and implausibility, as in the case of Gillies Adamson Semple’s investigations into the nature of sonic and physical realms.
Jonny Briggs explores the boundaries between the self and the external world in surreal scenes reminiscent of Absurdist theatre, whereas Janina Frye’s creations contradict the function of human skin as a boundary to the outside world, acting instead as an interface that calls into question prevailing binary distinctions between animate and inanimate, nature and culture. Lea Rose Kara applies scientific research to test the limits of human knowledge; her ambiguous representations relying on the viewer’s participation in resolving the polarity between natural and manufactured dimensions.
Samuel Basset’s notion of painting for paintings’ sake could be interpreted as capturing the essence of Absurdist theory as he explores the meaning of contemporary life through an autobiographical lens while Rasmus Nossbring and Hyneck Martinec employ everyday moments and mundane objects to comment on past and contemporary manifestations of humanity. The latter offsetting his hyperrealistic painting with a dreamlike mural. Mark Jackson on the other hand speculates on the meaninglessness of human existence by evading corporeality, merging hard to decipher forms to evoke a sense of recognition in the viewer, with Johnny Hoglund taking a step further towards nihilism by working with the dust of paintings deemed failures.
With his unsettling sculptures that are at once familiar and eerie, Tom Bull responds to a changing landscape in terms of community and violence, tradition and progress, wealth and labour. While his sculptures may embody the most direct commentary on the current social and political environment, all works in the exhibition share a recognition of a fundamental void, a search for meaning, and ultimately freedom to define our own purpose – the basis of Absurdism, a philosophical revolution born out of post-war disillusionment.
Now as then, this absurd blend of mythology, humour and surrealism may help us escape impending dystopia.
ABSURD (What Does It All Really Mean?) – 30th October 2022, OHSH Projects, 106 Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB @ohshprojects/