21 Bruton Street
13th November – 4th December 2014
Open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
or by appointment
Click here to view the works from the exhibition on the Delahunty website.
Download the full catalogue
with forward by Claire Hazelton
and In conversation with Pia Capelli
“My generation is the fulcrum for decades of anxiety and we have been made so inert and fearful that we dare not even face it to understand what it is.”
In ‘Anxiety Generation’ Stuart Semple focuses his language of sampled popular culture, intense imagery, song lyrics, direct humour and text towards a very defined agenda of playing the image world at its own game. Promising to be every bit as poignant, potent and outspoken as any of his previous projects, and delivered in his trademark colour-fuelled style, the new collection utilizes adult themes of sex, violence and horror to make his point.
Through the series of large canvases he makes an attempt to describe our unique moment in history – a time where we are interconnected via technologies like never before, yet our physical, social ties appear to be weaker than ever. To the artist our individual atomisation and isolation is at an epidemic level. In short we are largely facing this fear alone.
“We are fearful of strangers, unknown viruses, intimate relationships, one another, old age, death and ultimately bits of ourselves, because we are human and every day the media convinces us that humans are inherently perverse”.
But through his use of colours, words and slick stencilled graphic statements, Stuart Semple portrays a generation being hurtled at break-neck speed through a mass culture that keeps them suspended between two states. A repetitive cycle that sees, on the one hand, over-stimulation – the latest gossip, the news of the minute, celebrity wedding or fall from grace, which vanishes in a blink – and on the other what he describes as an unconscious coma state, induced by this incessant, flickering media-flow, which eventually leads to shut-down.
“We trade our comatose consciousness for entertainment which results in a comatose hangover. Thus the cycle repeats under the guise of distancing and protecting us from the inherent risks of truly living.”
These polar opposites play out time and time again in the work, giving the pieces an uneasy tension between foreground and background, text and image, the present day and the past. They are deeply emotional paintings; in their detail they are expressive, yet from a distance they become flat and considered.
The works take on an inter-generational anxiety. Almost a genetic state of predetermined fear. Semple’s generation cannot remember bombs being dropped on their homes, they cannot remember being evacuated from their families. They have no direct recollection of an atom bomb and are totally disconnected from the greatest horror of the modern age, The Holocaust. “Buried in our parents memories of their parents memories is an idea that humanity can be extremely evil: That violence lives just underneath the surface.” He explains. “Before Hiroshima the media was black & white. Post war the world became Technicolor.”
“We have been spoon-fed the concept that we are not enough. We have spent our youth watching a parade of ‘what we could have won’ and now we are at a total loss as to who we even are. Without the context of that attainment of aspiration for comparison, it is as if we are nothing at all. That is terrifying.”
There is also a strong dialogue in these new works with the moving image and cinema. The artist argues that as movies become increasingly spectacular, and CGI more believable, with faster cuts for shorter attention spans, our capacity to read static images is lessened. He does not feel that the still image quenches our insatiable appetite for sensation in the same way it once did.
This leads to obvious questions as to what relevance representational painting truly has at such a time. Is it an archaic language that is no longer able to be read? However, Semple is not at all pessimistic and through the very fact that the works exist at all he makes the point that the timelessness of paint gives us the room to look again and reconsider things that perhaps moved past us too quickly. “If we want to understand the impact the image world is having upon us, painting is a tool that gives us the time and space to do that quite unlike any other medium.”
- Reviews, interviews and features:
- Review by Jonathan R Jones for Modern Painters magazine
- In Depth review for Trebuchet Magazine by Kailas
- Interview and studio visit from We Heart
- Interview with Aesthetica Magazine
- Coverage of the private view by Tatler Bystander
- Feature in the Glass Magazine
- Anxiety Generation on London Live TV
- Feature in Idol magazine
- Stuart Semple. Anxiety Generation– Review by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford for Candid Magazine
- In-depth feature by Emily Gosling for Design Week
- Anxiety Generation in Alice Reviews
- Review in Something About Magazine – Stuart Semple Artist and Master of Illusion
- Feature in Shortlist Magazine
- Review by Digby Warde-Aldam for The Week magazine
- Feature in Mayfair Times : Art Issue by Lorna Davies