John Russell: Judgement

John Russell: Judgement

6 March – 14 March 2014


John Russell was a founder member of the London-based art group BANK (1990-2000) and as part of that collective practice was responsible for the production of a series of exhibitions and artworks throughout the 1990s. Since 2000 he has worked both independently and collaboratively to produce paintings, films, large-scale digital images, publications and curational projects, at venues in the UK, Europe and the US. In addition, he has edited and designed three books Frozen Tears 1-3, (ARTicle Press, 2003-2007) and written for publications such as Frieze, eflux and Mute Magazine.

Image: The kangaroo is not happy. It’s not clear who or what it represents but its not in good place (2014). 
3.5m x 6.87m backlit double-strike digital print on vinyl. 

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Why is the kangaroo unhappy? Perhaps it is arguing with the other creature. As well as being unhappy, the kangaroo also seems a little angry. And the other creature is looking away sheepishly. And what is that other creature? Is it a rat, a wallaby, kangaroo rat or something that the artist just made up? If so, how do you think he made it? Perhaps there is a clue to what’s going on in the title of the work: ‘Judgement’. Who or what do you think is being judged? 

Maybe they are arguing about where they are. It looks like a vast desert with nothing in it for miles and miles. No shelter, no trees, no food. It could be the landscape of a computer game. So perhaps they are lost in virtual reality. That could be why the kangarat seems to be visually breaking up. Perhaps he or she was not made so well by the computer programmer. 

And what is that exploding red splash between them? Has blood been spilled? Or is this just paint? The shape looks like a DNA spiral, the chemical building blocks of all life on earth. Perhaps the kangarat is a genetically engineered creature and the kangaroo is real. Are they part of the same family of animals or an entirely different kind? Do you think genetic engineering and virtual reality bringing about more order or more chaos in the world? And how does evolution and change in the natural world relate to evolution and change in the world of computers and digital technology? 

The picture looks like a giant advertisement for something, the kind of thing you see on the sides of buildings or on the edge of roads.  But there are no words or logos. So if its not trying to sell you something, then what is it for? Perhaps it is a backdrop for you to take your photos in front of, like a tourist attraction. When you put yourself in the picture it’s as if you were in the desert too, and you start to realize how big these creatures would be if they were real. Could a kangaroo or a kangarat ever grow so big?