"This is a grim and terrible subject, and the fact that she has shown it as playful and child-like images make it more frightening. They seem to me to be totally truthful pictures, from the heart, and they frighten me. Brave girl. Many people will identify with these images" - Paula Rego.
Josephine King (b.1965 London) makes ink-paintings on paper, a flat 'cut out and keep'-style portrait framed by text documenting the often traumatic experience of the artist's 'life so far'.
The subject of the work is King's extreme bi-polar mania, an illness which has plagued her all her life leading to several suicide attempts, whilst at the same time providing her with the subject matter for her art. The painting style is intensely colourful, almost a kind of pop Fauvism, featuring the artist in a variety of starched and patterned clothing often holding a 'prop' - knife, pills, tube of paint - though the work, rather than appearing depressing in any way is intimate, inspiring - apparently optimistic.
It is clear from the syntax of the compositions that King has an innate faculty for and interest in design, the poster layout of the paintings likely to have been influenced by the working environment of her father (the designer and photographer David King), though 'Life so Far' also reveals an interest in heightened stylisation - from haute couture and classical Indian portraiture to Victoriana, Art Nouveau and the decorative arts.
The Riflemaker book to accompany the Josephine King exhibition features an from Adrian Dannatt, writer, curator and correspondent for the Art Newspaper.
LIFE SO FAR is co-curated by Virginia Damtsa and Tot Taylor with Adrian Dannatt.
Art can still sometimes be a revelation. The first ever exhibition of 'paper' paintings by Josephine King provides just such a shock. King (b.1965 London) has been making art all her life, studying at the prestigous Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, but having resisted exhibiting these paintings until now, the work has the unmistakable punch of a discovery of true import.
Josephine King achieved success early on for her ceramics, being the only professional artist-in-residence at Lisbon’s renowned “azulejos” museum of tiles, a page review in Flash Art leading to global distribution for these beautiful objects.
But this was before the discovery of her extreme bi-polar mania which so unbalanced her life, almost ending it on several occasions, yet ironically providing the artist with the subject matter for her mature, breakthrough work being exhibited today.
Here the chromatic tones, dancing patterns and lightness of touch of her earlier decorative oeuvre is fused with altogether more bleak subject matter; the blackest melancolia, drug abuse and destructive relationships along with several suicide attempts.
But these troubles are not reflected in any initial appreciation of the work. The paintings are overtly, outrageously attractive with bright palette and dazzling textural and tonal variation, so attractive that only slowly do you come to realise their message of utter despair, a despair whose only redemption is in the making of art, the making of this art itself.
King grew up in the haute bohemia of late 1960s North London until moving while still a child to Amsterdam. As the daughter of the renowned designer, and collector of Soviet material David King (now with his own permanent room at Tate Modern ) and a dedicated mother, her mixed cultural background and subsequent world travelling led to her pushing the boundaries of creativity with utmost daring. King does not hide her love for earlier women artists, often also troubled, but her composition and subject matter remain absolutely her own; an unmistakable 'signature' mix.
This view of the world, the artist looking out without any trace of self-conscious cynicism, with absolute sincerity, with complete generosity, is here laid bare for us.
Adrian Dannatt is a writer and curator and a regular contributor to The Art Newspaper