Finding beauty in the grimy images of public figures embroiled in scandal and sleaze may sound like a challenge, but it is one that London-based artist John Walter takes up with vigor. The pieces on show in his solo exhibition, ‘The Rococo Riots’ at VITRINE Bermondsey Street collage the faces of popular culture with abstract marks, luxuriant textures and the likes of temporary tattoos and caricatures raided from children’s sticker books.
On entering the space, Walter’s iconic vision is immediately apparent in the incongruent hang of the twenty-four works that are on display in Vitrine’s first floor premises on Bermondsey Street. A bold blue wall makes a pleasant break with the usually unobtrusive gallery space and harks back to the immersive excess of ‘Double Exposure’, his 2011 installation at Vitrine’s original space, a 16-meter long window on Bermondsey Square.
It was here that Walter began his partnership with Alys Williams, director and head curator of Vitrine, which developed into a formal representation when Vitrine’s new space opened in September 2012. A sense of mutual growth is apparent in the make-up of the exhibition: this is the first time Walter has combined his paintings to form diptychs and triptychs, allowing the viewer to discover visual accord between apparently disparate motifs and subject matter.
The National Gallery describes works from the period of art history known as the Rococo as “dominated by asymmetry, curved forms, and light bright colours”, a move away from the symmetrical simplicity of Neoclassical art and architecture. It is an aesthetic that finds approval with Walter, whose works display the ability to find harmony in a luxurious pandemonium of colours and forms.
The presence of Walter’s trademark dark humour, however, removes these artworks from the frivolity associated with said period, catapulting the viewer back into the cynical world of the present. The paintings of ‘The Rococo Riots’ embody a punchy aggression that couples flawlessly with the unruly elegance of the uninhibited and unrepentant.
‘The Rococo Riots’ runs until 1 June at Vitrine Bermondsey Square, First Floor, 183-185 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW. John Walter will be holding a Tarot Card Reading on 31 May from 6 pm at Vitrine to coincide with SLAM last Fridays.
John Walter lives and works in London. He graduated from Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, followed by the Slade School of Fine Art in 2003. In 2006, he was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship and was resident at The British School at Rome (2006-‐2008). His work has been exhibited internationally, solo exhibitions include: ‘The Oil Baron’s Club’, Smart Gallery, Aberdeen (2012); ‘Double Exposure, Vitrine Bermondsey Square, London (2011); ‘Pinacoteca – Pina Colada,’ at Galerie ArsProToto, Erlangen, Germany (2010) and ‘Maximum Noise’, Galleria Marabini, Bologna (2007). Recent group exhibitions include: ‘20 Rue Jacob’, Galleria Rajatila, Tampere, Finland; ‘Space Station Zsa Zsa’, Pumphouse Gallery Battersea; ‘Rummage Sale’, Barbican Gallery, London; ‘Apocalypstick’ The Nunnery, London; and ‘The Shape of Things’ Ferrate Gallery, Israel. He organizes ‘Two Peacocks’ an ongoing large-‐ scale collaboration that saw its first iteration at Gallery North in Newcastle in 2012. John Walter is represented by Vitrine.