John Kiki was born in Cyprus (1943) and produces paintings that are brightly coloured and energetic. He maintains that the strongest influence on the work is the bright lights and razzmatazz of the seaside town of Great Yarmouth where he grew up; not his Greek heritage nor the Mediterranean environment which he left at a very young age. However, this belies the inheritance of our ancient ancestry; the things that lie deep in the subconscious that influence the way we see, the way we behave and the things that we find meaningful. Kiki’s paintings are essentially abstract and anti-naturalistic, they have a flat space, arabesque flourish and blocks of bold striking colour, all of which characterise the art of a Byzantine heritage that flows into his work and propels it forward.
There is no narrative to his pictures and no structure in the conventional western sense. They take as their starting point an image that has caught his imagination: a painting from a past master; Velázquez, El Greco and Picasso are favourites. Greek myths and historical figures are ever present. His figures are playful and ebullient, the paint applied from squeegee bottles with brushes and card to smear and fill where needed. The freshness and vitality he achieves is that of a contemporary painter thrilled by the act of painting and finding new artistic discoveries in a tradition that goes back centuries. Frank Auerbach has said of Kiki paintings that:
‘The work is mysterious to me. I cannot imagine how Kiki feels when he makes paintings. Sometimes his pictures have seemed more – and sometimes less – profound but they have always struck me as being fresh and alive. I have always
been interested to see what he would do next.’
John Kiki trained at Camberwell School of Art (1960-63) and the Royal Academy Schools (1964-67). He was the subject of a BBC TV documentary directed by Franco Rosso and a book was published by Imprimus Editions in 1993. In 1996-97 he was commissioned to make a suite of 25 paintings from the Carmina Burana manuscripts which were shown at the Barbican Centre, London and the Museum of Zagreb, Muzejo Gallery. In 2001 he set up a studio in New York where he has continues to exhibit but has returned to Great Yarmouth where he lives and works. This will be his fourth solo exhibition with Art Space Gallery.
To mark the occasion a 20 page catalogue with 15 colour plates and an essay by Andrew Lambirth has been published and can be viewed on-line at the Gallery website.
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