"When I made my first sock painting, I had the following revelation: "As I stare at this painting, it stares back at me, and as I stand here in my two socks, so does the painting hang there in its many socks. That seemed absolutely absurd, and therein somehow startlingly profound." Aaron Johnson, August 2013.

I 1955 skabte Robert Rauschenberg værket 'Bed', det første af hans "Combines". En serie af maleri lærreder hvorpå kunstneren påsatte fundne objekter, såsom dæk eller gamle møbler. Med 'Bed' tog Rauschenberg sin gamle pude, lagen samt sengetæppe og bemalede disse helt Jackson Pollocksk. Rauschenberg har sagt følgende: "Maleri relaterer til både kunst og liv ... og jeg forsøger at agere i feltet mellem de to. Værket 'Bed', som Rauschenberg hængte direkte på væggen, som et maleri, er et netop et værk, der befinder sig i feltet mellem kunst og liv og kan ses som en intim form for selvportræt af kunstneren.

Aaron Johnsons nye serie af malerier trækker tråde til Rauschenberg, da de også befinder sig i feltet mellem kunst og liv. Dog ikke som selvportrætter, men som portrætter af mennesker fra hele kloden og kan derfor beskrives som "kollektiv bevidstheds transmittere" ifølge Johnson. Til at skabe disse nye værker har Johnson indsamlet tusindvis af sokker gennem udveksling : kunstneren har gennem de sociale medier opfordret til at modtage sokker til gengæld mod at modtage en tegning fra ham. Han har derefter sendt tegninger til de hundredvis af sokke donorer der har bidraget til hans kunstneriske mission. Sokkerne er artefakter fra rejser, skridt der er taget og stier der er betrådt. Med Johnsons ord spiller sokkerne rollen som talisman, et magisk objekt, da der indlejret i hver sok er lidt af den åndelige DNA fra den tidligere ejermand/dame og ånden af skridt der er taget af et væld af fødder.

Det er efter denne logik at malerierne er blevet til. Maleriernes komposition findes i den kollektive bevidsthed der ifølge kunstneren transmitteres fra sokkernes donorer ind i maleriet, der så til gengæld sender denne bevidsthed tilbage til beskueren. Værkerne kan derfor ses som en udforskning af den transcendentale og transformative kraft kunsten kan indeholde. I Sock Paintings transformerer Johnson den ydmyge, banale og helt almindelige sok til potente malerier, der fungerer som portaler til en åbning af sindet. Aaron Johsons værker har flyttet sig fra tidligere, hvor hans værker handlede om politiske rædsler. Hans nye værker udspringer fra et ønske om en form for transcendens og Johnson søger skønhed gennem vanvid og beskriver derfor hans Sock Paintings som "kollektive bevidstheds transmittere i demokratiets ånd".

De nye malerier består af en impasto af gamle sokker. Værkerne kan ses som en komisk kommentar til fetichisering af den maleriske overflade, da sokken her fungerer som en slags funden penselstrøg, en ready-made maling om man vil. Efter Johnsons indledende absurde og respektløse lyst til at placere en sok i det hellige rum: lærredet, omdannedes Sock Paintings til en legende udforskning af en malerisk galskab. Aaron Johnson leger her med kunstnerens rolle som en visionær galning og i denne serie af malerier har han helt opgivet hans hidtil anerkendte stil for at give plads til at et vulkanudbrud af strømper og maling, der vælder frem i et helt nyt malerisk univers.

I Sock Paintings afmonterer og rekonstruerer Johnson kunstnerens selvopfattelse gennem en radikal malerisk genopfindelse. I værkerne markerer Johnson et seismisk skift fra den komplekse og glatte overflade til et hårdere ekspressionistisk udtryk og en afveksling fra sarte detaljerede noter til aggressive power-akkorder, der slås an i malerierne. Johnsons karakteristiske psykedeliske og groteske tegneserie univers forbliver intakt i de nye malerier. Overfladerne er nu bragt til live som levende kød med sokker placeret og brugt som et hav af afskrællet hud på lærredet.

Tom Hermansen
MA (History of Art)
Art Critic


"When I made my first sock painting, I had the following revelation: "As I stare at this painting, it stares back at me, and as I stand here in my two socks, so does the painting hang there in its many socks. That seemed absolutely absurd, and therein somehow startlingly profound." Aaron Johnson, August 2013.

In 1955, the late Robert Rauschenberg created his Bed, which is one of his first “combines,” the artist’s term for attaching found objects, such as tires or old furniture, to a traditional canvas support. In Bed, he took his old pillow, sheet, and quilt – and splashed them with paint in a style similar to that of Abstract Expressionist “drip” painter Jackson Pollock. Rauschenberg famously said: “Painting relates to both art and life… and I try to act in that gap between the two.” Bed, which he hung on the wall like a traditional painting, is such an object between art and life and remains a weird kind of Rauschenberg-self-portrait.

Aaron Johnson’s new paintings are related to Rauschenberg’s work and operate between art and life, but they are not self-portraits. On the contrary, they are portraits of many people from all over the world and what Johnson describes as "collective consciousness transmitters".
For these new works, Johnson has collected thousands of socks through an exchange: the artist made repeated calls for socks through social media, and in exchange for socks mailed to his studio, he mailed drawings to hundreds of sock donors. In this manner, the paintings are completely dependent upon contributions, and on the flow of drawings going out in exchange. The socks are artifacts of journeys, steps taken, paths walked. In Johnson’s words the socks play the role of talisman, a magical object: embedded within each sock is a bit of spiritual DNA of the wearer, ghosts of steps taken by a multitude of feet.

Following this logic, the paintings are composite structures that contain the collective consciousness of the sock donors, and in turn the consciousness is transmitted to the viewer. An exploration into the transcendental, transformative power of art, Johnson repurposes the humble, banal, common sock into potent ingredients for paintings as portals designed to break open heads. While the politics of his work has shifted, no longer making works about political horrors, but rather making works in spite of political horrors, this work springs forth from a desire for transcendence. Seeking beauty through lunacy, Johnson describes these Sock Paintings as "collective consciousness transmitters in the spirit of democracy".

These new paintings are encrusted with an impasto of old socks. Taking a comedic stab at the fetishization of the painterly surface, the sock is a found object brush stroke, a ready made paint. Following an initial absurdist and irreverent impulse to stick a sock into the sacred space of the canvas, the Sock Paintings proliferated in a playful exploration of painterly madness. Playing with the role of artist as visionary lunatic, in this series Johnson has abandoned his recognized style to allow a volcanic eruption of socks and paint to gush into a whole new realm of painting.
In his Sock Paintings, Johnson dismantles and reconstructs the artist’s sense of self in an act of radical painterly reinvention. This change in Johnson's painting practice marks a seismic shift from the intricate slick to the hard-core expressionistic, a replacing of delicate detailed notes with aggressive power-chords.
The psychedelic comic grotesqueries distinctive to Johnson's work over the years remain central in this newest expression of his vision; now we see it played out in a phantasmagoria of socks. The surfaces of these works are seemingly alive like squirming flesh, as the viewer is confronted with the socks like a sea of shed skins.


Tom Hermansen
MA (History of Art)
Art Critic


"Sock Paintings"
October 11th to November 16th
Opening Friday October 11th from 5 to 8 pm


 

Headless Horseman Acrylic and socks on canvas 168 x 198 cm, 2013
Double Scream Acrylic, socks and jeans on canvas 168 x 198 cm, 2012
Smiler Acrylic and socks on linen 168 x 198 cm, 2013