artist / participant

press release

Born in 1984, Jack Strange’s artistic career has so far been as short as it has been intense. As a result, we lack a comprehensive critical study of his already sizeable body of work, the commentary on it so far being limited to an appreciation of his quirky sense of humour and his acuity in the handling of very diverse materials, as well as his interest in conceptual techniques such as appropriation and the ready-made. Regarding his thematic focus, the critics have been reluctant to single any out, although his interest in subverting the everyday is generally acknowledged. This subversive intent is mainly dispensed with flippancy and wit, although in works such as g (2008) or Study group (2008), Strange’s humour turns menacing and suggests the break-up of the ego and loss of meaning.

In trying to move beyond this somewhat sparse critical consensus, we might stress, for example, the markedly epigrammatic nature of Strange’s oeuvre (he rarely attempts to work serially and, even when he does, some of the constituent works are sometimes about to give the game away). This might partly be attributed to an ebullient imagination, but it also could be seen as revealing a mistrust of reflection, of the deliberative processes a viewer engages in when evaluating an artwork. On the contrary, Strange’s disparate objects, drawings and videos ask to be understood rather than interpreted, an intention reinforced by their seemingly improvised manner and constant interplay of scale.

An illuminating way of assessing Strange’s overall project might be to turn to the idea of invocation. Invocations do not draw on reasoning, but on thoughts cut short and unfinished sentences – they do not try to explain anything, but rather seek to create a mood conducive to portent and magic. This mood is best achieved by repetition, as in the circular quality of the videos, the obsessive grid-like text drawings and the permutation of simple elements, all reinforced by the visceral quality of blood and the allusion to human organs. Incongruous objects turn out to be sacred symbols, and we viewers are the cult members gathered to attend the ritual. Because some kind of ritual is unfolding, make no mistake, and it leaves us with a nagging question – which entity is being invoked here? Is it ominous, a herald of chaos, or rather a light-hearted, benevolent god with a radiant neon smile?

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Jack Strange - NOT REALLY