Josh Hollingshead: Chronicles at Krilova Stelfox Gallery
Josh Hollingshead’s first solo exhibition, hosted by the Krilova Stelfox Gallery, is a feast for the eyes. His large paintings are like visual stories laid out in one block, with plots and subplots, protagonists and cameos all clamouring for the viewer’s attention and demanding visibility. Every inch of the canvas comes alive with striking fluorescent colours and a message to convey. He is a self-taught artist who is acutely aware of technique and thus able to dissect the rules of composition and deconstruct common notions of space and depth. The result is a symphony of contrasts and phosphorescence, enriched by an impressive level of detail.
When first approaching the collection, the nature of Hollingshead’s paintings immediately steers the viewer’s attention towards the overall composition. From afar, each painting is a burst of colour dotted with a myriad of faces and intertwining shapes.
The natural progression is to move closer and listen, so to speak, to every character, and the story that they tell. Even the smallest figure has a powerful facial expression, engaged in an action that gives it life, and provides a defined identity. Only after the eyes have slowly journeyed across the entire canvas, absorbing every detail, can one step back to experience the painting as one dynamic, multilayered tale, where colours and narratives intermingle, sometimes coexisting harmonically, at other times stridently clashing.
Hollingshead’s works are, for the most part, social critiques. His interest in dark themes aims to draw attention to that which is usually overlooked. Taking inspiration from his travels, he focuses on world issues, magnifies them into large-scale images and highlights them, sometimes literally, in vivid tones. The artist explains that each voyage leaves deep impressions imprinted in his memory, and these often come alive later in his mind as complete visual compositions. He then proceeds to reproduce these visualisations onto canvas, and employs his fierce imagination to create surreal atmospheres around sorely realistic scenarios.
One of his most recent works, The Human Chain, is set in Casablanca, depicting the construction of a new port. Countless workers in uniform toil away, surrounded by cranes on all sides. They denounce, simply through their postures, the strenuous and demanding working conditions. Upon closer inspection, one discovers smaller – yet equally significant – narratives sprouting in the background. Stories of immigration, protests, smuggling, and the hostility of the police force unfold one by one, lending the scene a dystopian flavour.
The depth of Hollingshead’s messages, combined with his dexterity in the creative execution, gives his work a distinctive edge that makes him an intriguing up-and-comer, who clearly has much to express as a visual storyteller.
Josh Hollingshead: Chronicles is at Krilova Stelfox Gallery from 3rd until 15th April 2015, for further information visit here.
For further information about Josh Hollingshead visit here.