Usually Surrounded: Paul Insect @ Allouche Benias Gallery, Athens
On view until the end of the month, AlloucheBenias gallery in Athens is presenting Usually Surrounded, a solo exhibition by the UK's legend, Paul Insect. Comprising a new body of paintings on canvas as well as a couple of works on paper, the exhibition presents some new concepts in the artist's portrayal of unusual or even accidental sitters.
Reducing the subject’s appearance to a pair of eyes, one of the most neutral yet recognizable features of Homo Sapiens, Insect builds his visuals and concepts on these compositional and contextual pillars. Through the frequent use of bold colors, pop imagery, and both traditional as well as radical techniques, he constructs vibrant imagery that depicts everyday people and not the ones that seek or desire fame. With an idea to comment on the urge to hide one’s real self, the work is becoming rapidly relevant in the world where physical existence and interaction is getting replaced by virtual ones. This illusion is arguably best notable in the way he hand-paints the raster dots, baffling the viewer and misleading the perception. And while evoking Warhol’s reinvention of screen print as an artistic technique or tapping into Lichtenstein’s use of rasters and graphic colors, the visuals keep the raw and unforgiving aesthetics of the artist's stencil or pasteup endeavors. Along with paintings on canvas and paper, he is occasionally working with film and puppetry as well as making sculptural work. Using mostly found materials, Insect is effortlessly bridging the gap between the grit of London’s, or any urban place’s alleys, and the pristine space of its white cube fine art venues and institutions.
Emerging from the late 1990’s Street Art movement as well as being active in the underground party and club scene existing at the time in London, Insect’s creative expression has always been fuelled by the sense of rebellion, nonconformity, and constant experimentation and innovation. Free from rules or expectations of the existing formats, yet genuinely appreciative and respectful for the painterly tradition, the London-based artist is nowadays creating works that are an exciting fusion of the vast range of interests and influences he has experienced or developed over the years. With the strong focus on the human figure as the main theme of the work, Insect enjoys exploring different mediums, materials, and techniques while painting distinctive portraits as his signature type of work. Driven by the genuine urge to create and eager to bend a few rules or trigger a few conversations along the way, his individual works, practice, as well as his career trajectory, have been marked by unexpected twists and intuitive turns, forging an unparalleled legacy of artistic expression. —Sasha Bogojev