XXIst Century Catharsis .5 | AN EXHIBITION BY JAMES JOHN WOOD
Emerging artist James John Wood is fascinated by how society functions and combines critique with curiosity to create provocative commentary of first world capitalism. “If we accept the idea that the foundations of our society should be based on the shared positive morals of our time and understanding, how far are we from that point and why are we not there?” Wood asks. Among his best known pieces are those that comprise his “XXIst Century Catharsis .5” series, in which multiple layers of perspex are painted with oils to display a 3D scene that examines fear as an influencer in class based political motives. The final pieces are encased in aluminium, an industrial theme common in his works. Wood self taught hyper-realism before he was exclusively invited to study in the acclaimed artist Maggi Hambling's painting masterclass.
Focusing on the world today and the surreal nature of it, Wood creates contemporary surrealist oil paintings that are heavily embodied with social theory and political charge in a provocative and humorous style unique to the artist’s oeuvre. Referencing political points of interest and their effects on the lives of people across the world. He considers both the psychological and physical reactions of modern day statistics that contradict the idea of an equal and fair society. When asked about his latest concept development, Wood retorts, “Looking at the recent revelation that the eight richest people on earth own as much wealth as the poorest half of the worlds population, I can’t help but imagine what it would look like if we translated wealth into weight... what would eight people weighing 158 million tons look like?”
Wood believes in finding his peers and audience through the concepts in his paintings, like a net cast to catch the attention of various political positions. Global wealth inequality, nationalism and prejudice are common subject matter in Wood’s paintings. Balancing how these topics are displayed between subtle concept art and banksyesque social propaganda. Diving brush first into the realm of contemporary surrealism not only with his art but how he lives and philosophies life. A lot of pieces incorporate symbolism and metaphors of his artistic endeavour and the underground bohemian/squatter lifestyle that is focused on challenging what society considers normal, in order to create contemporary philosophies. This investigation of morality is a continuous theme in Wood’s obscure compositions, which are the artists attempt to capture an aesthetic depiction of the conscious and subconscious behaviours of people responding to social issues.
Wood predominately works with oil yet often accompanies his paintings with poetry, tattoo and video installations. In his latest series “Ink, Skin & Bosch”, Wood collects six willing participants and himself to be permanently marked, using the human body as a canvas. The tattoos, and the poems that adorn the resulting prints, are a modern rendition of The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Heironymous Bosch (disputed). Like Bosch paints using scenes from life (rather than allegoric representations of the sins), Wood tattoos surreal symbolism of the seven great virtues. Besides himself, the participants were unaware of the ink their bodies would receive until the piece is complete. Emphasising Wood’s desire to collaborate with talented marginalised artists, two of the participants in this series performed live music at the series’ opening night. One of many tactics used to create an artistic experience over art viewing during the exhibitions.