On acknowledging good art: John Demos
I do lots of things, always had. And in a way I am one of the believers that as a creative producer you really need to get involved in lots of different projects. Some might take off, some might take forever, some are so fast-n-ready that it's over before you know it, some you get paid for, some you participate because of other than economic reasons, because it's worth it, because the people are great and/or the project is something you really believe in.
The latter is the case for my involvement with the Big FAG Press for the past 10 years. This adventure in printing facilitated lots of incredible projects, and one that makes me happy is the current exhibition we have now on, EXTRAPOLATE: The Art of John Demos.
John came to work with us 2 and a half years ago as part of a mentorship program subsidised by Accessible Arts, when we provided guidance and support for an artist to create a set of prints with us. John has been working with us ever since, producing way beyond a set of prints. He also become a key member of our association, seeing it grow and finding new avenues of surviving the real estate tyranny of Sydney and the uncertain stability of an artist's run initiative.
For the exhibition of his works we invited an external curator, Lucy Brack, so to have a fresh perspective in selecting the works. That was needed as I sat with John at the press watching over week after week of hard artwork production. All of us involved where far too close to have a good detached assessment. He is immensely inspirational when it comes to production, working away day after day without fail.
The exhibition also wanted to give a perspective on his work that would allow for a better understanding of a career spanning 30+ years, with pieces dating back from the 80s.
It struck me how certain concerns and mediums have been present for so long, worked and reworked in endless variations. Language is one of his recurring elements, particularly certain words, repeated on the surface of blackboards, whiteboards, chairs, tables, doors, floors, pieces of found timber and panels of other materials, paper, prints.
See below for a selection of images. Love this work, for it speaks (literally) and evokes aplenty, exorcise and reflect, turns and appropriates, engage and subvert. A master of language and mark making.
John is otherwise understood as an artist with a disability, hence you probably never heard of him outside of restricted understandings of outsider art, and the related undervaluing.
There is nothing to be undervalued in this exhibition, but rather a clear need to move forward from preconception of genius and value, towards an assessment of John's output worthy of consideration at a level ground with any other cultural worker.
Good on ya John, a pleasure to work with you. Bring it on>>