Arts+Leisure is pleased to announce Beasts, an exhibition of recent paintings by Brian Whiteley. Often incorporating elements of new media art, performance, and social provocation in his work, Whiteley probes the absurdity of contemporary socio-political discourse as well as our preoccupation with mortality and its attendant feelings of dread and anxiety. The artist is himself deeply attuned to mortality, and often uses his work as a means to process its inevitability; in his own words, “one of the most humbling and terrifying concepts that you have to come to terms with in life is the idea of your own mortality. I personally have a persistent and overwhelming anxiety about death that I’ve tried to deal with in different ways. I’ve found that confronting the anxiety through art can be cathartic and a temporary reprieve”.
In Beasts, Whiteley refines his multi-media practice, presenting a series of raw, expressionistic acrylic paintings of demonic beasts wrecking senseless mayhem amidst their abstract surroundings. Uniform in size (all canvases measure 72 x 48 inches) and sharing a common construction of space and perspective, the works on display evoke both surreal dreamscapes, populated by nightmarish contortions of the subconscious, as well as the rough-hewn painterly abstraction of 20th century expressionist movements such as Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter. The similarities of the work in Beaststo that of German post-WWI artistic movements is compelling, especially considering the eerie parallels between our contemporary political and social milieu and that of the latter.
In The Calling of the Beast, Whiteley renders a simultaneously menacing and cartoonish demon, as if caricaturing the hellscapes of Albrecht Durer and other artists of the northern Renaissance. Standing with wings spread and manifesting with hermaphrodite-qualities (bearing multiple breasts along with male genitalia), the grotesque entity bares itself entirely to the viewer. In Inner Demons and Evermore, Whiteley’s demons bring destruction upon their surroundings, with one tormenting a human subject in The Temptress. In other paintings, the beasts fix their malice on each other; At Play in the Void presents an almost orgiastic surge of violence, with the multi-hued beasts suspended in a tangle, unaffected by gravity. With their grotesque appearance and grounding in Medieval renderings of demons, Whiteley’s “beasts” evoke our fears and anxieties, as if apparitions of the bogeymen of the contemporary social and political landscape.
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