The term cultus deorum was defined by Roman philosopher and polymath Cicero as ‘the cultivation of the gods’. Approximately four hundred years before Emperor Constantine the Great’s conversion to Christianity, this would refer specifically to pagan polytheism. Cultish codes have been a central component of all belief systems throughout history, manifesting themselves in various ritualistic guises. Prayer, sacrifice, offerings and ceremonial actions in relation to symbolic signs, dates and places, compounded by repetition, come to define any individual cult by its most essential process, that of worship. Each artist in this presentation investigates the cult drive as an important component within their general practice.
Florian Heinke uses black paint exclusively as a “radical medium”. His subjects are derived from traditional and digital media sources and often combine text to create an aesthetic that suggests a polemic poster or advertisement. Heinke’s paintings are aggressive, political and nihilistic, and this unrestrained approach is intended to provoke the audience into an emotive reaction. Heinke’s confrontational strategy reveals a deep lying cynicism of the modern age and a nostalgic longing for an impossible world.
Sam Jackson makes psychological portraits that often employ religious signs and symbols in the form of tattoos. Often displaying a melancholy serenity that refers to the poise of subjects in historic religious painting, Jackson’s works are strangely timeless whilst being undeniably contemporary. Crucifixes or swastikas inked onto the surface of the subjects’ skin create a conflict between passivity, aggression, and historic and popular cultures that have adopted branding and propaganda tendencies in order to promote their beliefs.
Reece Jones employs a unique process to make charcoal drawings on paper. His subjects may be whimsical, improbable, impossible or theoretically muddled. Cross references, samples and complete fabrications are often layered and juxtaposed until an image is made manifest whose origins are potentially difficult to define. In his recent work Jones uses ‘evidence’ of mythological or supernatural beasts as a point of reference, working with and evolving these core signifiers until they become apparently more authoritative. Ultimately the viewer is invited to assess the legacy of surface, process, documentary, translation, actuality and illusion.
Eric Manigaud makes large scale pencil drawings that offer a touchstone into important events and developments of the European modern phase including World War I bomb victims; early asylum inmates; murder victims photographed by progenitors of forensic science; or bombed cities of World War II. The National Socialist German Workers' Party emerged from an earlier occult group called the Thule Society, both of which advocated establishing an Aryan master race and were inherently anti-Semitic. By being anti-Judaist and pro-folk (völkisch) in combination with a potent propaganda machine reliant on appropriating religious symbols such as the Hindu swastika, the Nazi party became the most devastating cult group of the 20th century. Manigaud’s powerfully emotive drawings are direct representations of the devastating consequences of this ideology.
The Cult Of RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ are a group working in performance, video and installation that investigate the history of the city and graffiti, whilst adopting ancient notions of the ritualistic. Embracing paganism, shamanism and the primitive, The Cult Of RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ fuse the archaic and the contemporary to make aggressive, engaging and loaded work.
Alex Gene Morrison works across media including painting, collage and animation. He employs archetypal motifs drawn from contemporary notions of the primitive and references the occult. Beckoning the tribal via totemic structures or primeval skull-like heads, Morrison unravels form to reveal the universal. Added to an ongoing investigation into pure abstraction, Morrison combines shape, texture and colour, either within a single painting or across a group, to further the impact of his enquiry into the essential.
Gavin Nolan is known for his ongoing series of portraits and self-portraits. Nolan draws on religious cults including Judaism and Catholicism; political cults such as Nazism; and the modern cult of celebrity. Expressed through his selection of subjects such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Jesus Christ, or artists from his inner circle, or through signifiers that are worked into the paintings, Nolan traverses the histories of art, culture, politics and religion. His use of emblems and visual codes are sometimes overt but often concealed, and serve to create a complex tableau of personal and universal symbolism.
Dominic Shepherd draws on the occult and English folk traditions. His complex paintings consist of interwoven surfaces of pattern and figuration that tie his own first-hand experience of living in Dorset woodland with an ongoing interest in historic and contemporary cultures and cult groups. 70’s Prog Rockers; Romantic poets; visionary artists; hippies; Pearly Kings and Queens; acid house ravers; and Wiccans populate Shepherd’s canvases, often bedecked with signs and symbols, to celebrate and mourn the loss of cultish communities and movements.
John Stark has been concerned with philosophies of religion, spirituality and the occult throughout the phases of his career. Evolving from depicting archetypal mythical characters such as hermits or witches through alchemists and prophets to Korean shamans, Stark continues to combine a personal search for individuation with an impeccable and labour intensive painting process.
Zavier Ellis is the Director of Shoreditch gallery CHARLIE SMITH LONDON and co-founder of THE FUTURE CAN WAIT. The gallery was established in 2009 and has rapidly gained a reputation for innovative exhibitions showcasing the work of emerging, talented and sought after artists. THE FUTURE CAN WAIT was established in 2007 and is now organised in partnership with Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4's New Sensations. The exhibition is the biggest independent, annual event of its kind globally.
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