Devon DeJardin makes beautifully rendered images of what look to be intentionally constructed piles of rounded stone forms. He uses a very sophisticated colour palette and chiaroscuro to model paintings of statues of a convincing bulk and heft. The forms sit outdoors, in landscapes, illuminated by dramatic Caravaggesque light. The light is otherworldly, unfathomable, it doesn’t seem to come from the weather. They look like they’ve been there forever, wherever there is.

The forms in DeJardin’s paintings look solid and reliable. They seem familiar. Somewhere between pre-historic monolithic sculptures and a child’s multicoloured building blocks. They feel modernist, like an element from a painting by Tanguy sculpted by Henry Moore. Or an Eduardo Chillida sculpture portrayed in a painting by Fernando Botero. Were ancient stone sculptures such as the Easter Island heads painted, like polychromatic Ancient Greek sculpture, before thousands of years of weather washed the colour away. Is that what they are? They could be from the future, or a recent pasts’ idea of the future. You know that film Zardoz? The one with Sean Connery toting a revolver and wearing only red underpants and thigh length leather boots. Or a monument from a vast South American city that was designed by a single architect mixing influences of European brutalism with local Aztec heritage. They could be remnants from a former Soviet totalitarian regime.

Their physical presence seems huge but not confrontational, more comforting somehow, benign rather then daunting. The artist refers to them as Guardians. What they are is images, paintings, ideas. Substantive fictions. Let’s take a word that we all know but can never quite remember. Pareidolia - the tendency to see faces in random visual patterns. This is where these paintings get really interesting. They obviously have that quality, we see the faces one second and the next, it’s just a pile of coloured blocks again. The interesting part is that they act as pareidolia for our imagination. We can see all sorts of things in them, beyond faces. We see swathes of art history, cultures, religions, belief systems, all in the same place at the same time, like layers of fine gauze, slightly shifting to reveal different truths. There is a theory, proposed in the 1970’s by Julian Jaynes, that humanity only developed consciousness around 2500 years ago. Until that point, Jaynes argues, we understood the ‘voices in our head’ to be external, Gods or ancestors. We ‘heard’ the voices of our deceased loved ones long after they died so we preserved their bodies and continued to care for them. We built statues that became the mouthpieces for the voices and took advice from them. The Gods and ancestors addressed us directly, guiding our choices, correcting us, chastising us. Jaynes called this the Bicameral Mind. Great works of art were made during this time, guided by the voices of Gods, that were actually in the maker's mind. As the bicameral mind broke down, heading towards consciousness, the Gods no longer communicated directly with people. It was during this period that intermediaries became their spokespeople. Gods outsourced the delivery of their words to second party messengers - muses, oracles, angels, mediums.

When and where do DeJardin’s paintings occur? What are the sculptures in the paintings made of? They’re made of themselves. They are simulacra - exact copies of originals that never existed. This posits the sculptures in a peculiar ontological position. The paintings and the objects in them seem to be the originals, if we fully immerse ourselves in their constructed reality. They are not paintings of the sculptures which DeJardin has recently made, rather it seems to be the other way around. The sculptures are real world manifestations of the fictional objects in the paintings, like a Madame Tussaud Sherlock Holmes. A simulacra of a simulacra? The very tangibility of the sculpture further questions the reality of the whole constructed world and somehow it still manages to hold together, if we go with it. In its original form the word, simulacra, referred primarily to images of a God. So, possibly these are triple simulacra. Images of images of Gods all the way down. The artist talks about the Guardians as drawing together elements of various faiths and belief systems. They seem to me to be closer to examining and testing our faith in images, representation, truth, reality, art. There is no referent, nothing to make a representation of, yet here they are. Like religion they are kaleidoscopic, a hall of mirrors, reflecting only reflections. —David Risley, Copenhagen, 2024