Ridiculous. That’s the first thing that springs to mind when viewing the whimsical work of Gorka Mohamed. The young Spanish artist’s highly stylized acrylic paintings curl your mouth into a sweet swiss-roll smile until you realize the unease lurking in the recesses of the canvas. Because his works are premium cortex candy – bright, bouncy, creamy and gooey. But tear off the cheerful packaging and a sour surprise masquerading as a French Fancy awaits your salivating soul.
Long, thin noses impaled upon the tragic-comic faces of the ruffle-necked male figures to make your eyes water. And there’s fear in those Shakespearean eyes, the nervous pupils dilating in shock recognition of the change in status of male authority figures. Gagged and chocked by the caked mark of aristocracy, these guys can’t even croak a defense in a world riddled with market-driven consumption and malignant banality. The nobility, the old masters, the philosophers are nothing but fuzzy sock-puppets placed on the hand as a mark of Punch and Judy authority. Although Mohamed paints with a great sense of charm and a pallet of frivolity, he manages to turn these elements against a society he sees as characterized by a lack of depth and illusion.
He’s taking the piss out of pomposity by mixing commercial imagery with traditional fine art traditions and myths of the artist. He’s also, maybe unwittingly, taking the piss out of himself for being party to these institutions. Yet there is a keen sense of John Currin’s observation of the state of the contemporary art world and where the power lies in this baffling territory. In I’m a Painter (2009), the anachronistic flash of inspiration is represented by a candle in a world where artist’s constantly emulate and pay homage to each other with shit-eating grins. This flimsy painter cuts a figure somewhere between a mop and coffee pot, an amalgamation of salvaged parts, a burnished stimulant of the imagination. He stands gleefully unaware of his hideous composition in a dark ground so characteristic of the Old Masters, a context firmly bound in the pages of art history.
Mohamed’s deflated ‘masters’ are extinct in this realm where other genus have moved in and set up shop in the art market. To say it’s a struggle for young artists in these politicized down and out Orwellian times is perhaps a conflated understatement. Yet Mohamed offers hope to these crust-munching folk who’ve sold their last vintage pair of boots on e-bay for a fiver. The cult of Ceauşescu personality for the big named artist may be running out as the satirical sweep of Mohamed’s brush paints over cake-holes with his Elizabethan silencers and leads the way for a new generation of artistic talent.
Annabel Fenn Write, 2008