22 .10.16 – 29.11.16
SMAC Gallery in Johannesburg is proud to present New Paintings, Simon Stone’s third solo exhibition with the gallery since 2011.
The word ‘new’ might seem to some incongruous with an artist whose career spans nearly forty years, but new is exactly what all of Simon Stone’s works in New Paintings are. Produced during the course of the past year, this exhibition includes both oils on cardboard and a selection of large-scale paintings on canvas, and sees the artist returning to his lyrical juxtapositioning of land- and cityscapes, figures, still lifes and interiors, floating objects and intriguing abstract elements.
Renowned for his various stylistic approaches, Stone sets numerous different genres alongside one another in paintings that are constructed around multiple images, providing a vivid and poetic account of his own personal journey. Working predominantly in oils, Stone is often described as a lyrical Neo-Expressionist, a semi-Surrealist, creating paintings that have navigated various artistic territories; from natural realism to high expressionism.
In New Paintings, Stone perfects the Art of Juxtaposition, with many of the works consisting of a seemingly fortuitous arrangement of images, objects and figures. For the viewer – set adrift on an ocean of images from Stone’s subconscious – finding the logical thread that links these disparate symbols is no easy task, rendering the tidy interpretation of a Simon Stone painting rather difficult.
At first glance, Stone’s work appears to encapsulate the banal, possessing an aura of alterity and anonymity whilst also appearing routinely familiar. However, upon closer inspection, something unexpected is revealed – a clue, a hint towards something more complex, something metaphysical even. It’s as though Stone has encrypted his works with hidden messages that are open for the viewer to interpret; messages that don’t necessarily lend themselves towards accurate analyses.
In this new body of paintings, evocations of fabled works of art are interspersed with current affairs, such as fracking in the Karoo in FF (Fuck Fracking) (2016). In one large canvas, titled The Coachman (2016), Stone himself is perched on a stool, peering back at the viewer, his body twisted towards a snapshot of the Pyramids of Giza, while an oblong slice of snow-capped peaks hovers overhead. Legendary cities, coquettish nudes, the artist’s signature stacking of cardboard boxes, memories of Europe, chronicles of inner city Johannesburg, dusty small town scenes and the remote horizons of the artist’s beloved Karoo float amid scrawls of nothing in particular, windows into different worlds. Human figures (or representations thereof), lost in space, disassociated from one another, populate the spaces in between.
Apart from the retrospective exhibition of his work which was held at the Standard Bank Gallery in 2013, New Paintings is his first exhibition in Johannesburg in over a decade. The location of this show is particularly significant as, according to Stone, his career “started off in Johannesburg”. Following a period of study in Italy, Stone relocated to the City of Gold in the early 1980s where he lived and worked for nearly twenty years, developing a reputation as the “inner city poet of Johannesburg” and creating numerous documents of the city that remain iconic.
Despite being surrounded by a predominant post-modern proclivity towards anti-aestheticism and self-conscious subversiveness, Stone’s work has managed to maintain a certain traditional quality whilst also appealing to a more contemporary sensibility. Variously austere and delicate, quirky and controlled, rudimentary and recondite, Stone’s paintings are an exquisite exploration of form, colour and composition.
New Paintings runs until 26 November 2016.