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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Joe Machine: derivations from narrative icons

I recently met the Stuckist artist, Joe Machine. Edward Lucie-Smith writes of Joe:

'Like many of the most remarkable artists of the Modern and Post Modern epoch, Joe Machine is self-taught. As it happens, being self-taught is also very much part of the English – or should I be politically correct and call it the ‘British’ - tradition. Francis Bacon, notoriously, had no professional formation as a painter. William Blake, in many ways a precursor of Joe Machine, as some of the illustrations in this book amply demonstrate, spent six years studying at the Royal Academy, but the instruction he received seems to have bounced off him. All it did was to instill in him a profound disrespect for academic ways of thinking, at least as these were understood in the England of his time ...

He participated in the first major Stuckist exhibition, held in Shoreditch in 2000, and was prominent in the Stuckist show held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool 2004, which marked a certain measure of reluctant official acceptance for the group, whose activities are still excoriated by many critics ...

Throughout ... the early 2000s, Joe Machine was studying intensively – his chosen subjects being psychoanalysis and social science, socialist politics and nature.

The result has been a considerable blossoming and broadening of subject matter. One new series, called Failure of the Russian Revolution, is about radical politics, and in particular the politics of violence. These paintings have a much stronger element of direct social commentary than previous work, but always combined with fantasy. In no sense are they attempts at social or socialist realism. In fact, one might even go so far as to think of them as derivations from narrative icons, used by Byzantine and Russian artist to recount the lives of Christ and the saints.

Another series, The First Revolution, is openly concerned with religion. It employs Old Testament symbolisms, material taken from the Book of Genesis, but only in a heterodox fashion. The theme is the Fall of Man. Joe Machine hints that some of the content of these works comes from studies of the Kabbalah. If this is the case, one needs to consider that one of the aims of those who study the Kabbalah is to understand and describe the divine realm. Another is to achieve ecstatic union with the godhead.
What these images inevitably bring to mind are the things we find in the Prophetic Books of William Blake.'

The La's - Son Of A Gun.

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