Friday, 24 June 2011

John Squire: Celebrity, Idea Generation Gallery

from Idea Generation Gallery's Celebrity Flickr set
A super exhibition from the artistic heart of the 90s Mancunian group The Stone Roses. Even if John Squire's show Celebrity were called something else, the works on show, substantial but strangely fragile canvases of Islamic-style patterned art would have an appeal of their own. I think that Squire's reactionary naming of the works have more to them than some random assigning of big names to (figuratively void) abstract work.

For example, the canvas called Richard Pryor (right) is a quietly dynamic rush of overlapping, repeating pattern units. There is some character here, not simply the suggestion of Pryor's unruly Afro-hair barnet but also his extraordinary, scatterbrain comic genius - and possibly the pathos of his subsequent MS affliction, with all its connotations of loss of motor control.

But this is, I guess, the point of Squire's work - that not only the value of an image but also its very content is simply an opinion held in the viewer's mind. Instead of a worth being not only provided but positively thrust upon us, we are invited - by the virtue of a name alone - to invest the image with worth, with the first clear hurdle being an Emperor's-new-clothes complication that the figure doesn't exist at all.

However, I don't believe that Squire is being insufferably postmodern (i.e. trying to make fun of us). The key element here is, naturally, the Islamic designs that are the idiom of the pieces.
I applied this concept to the gods chosen by modern Western culture; those whose stories have been told and retold and whose images have been mass produced to such an extent that they are granted a kind of immortality
Squire says, reminding us obliquely of Muslim censure in representing the Prophet figuratively.

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