Painter Ben Spiers (b. 1972) is one of London’s best kept secrets. Now he is stepping into the limelight to share his work at Carl Kostyál Gallery, with his solo exhibition, Hook and Crook; a presentation of new, unseen paintings from 2013 to present.
With an uncompromising mastery of traditional techniques, Spiers ducks and dives through the history or art, indiscriminately helping himself to hybrid abstraction and figuration.
The title of the show references the English phrase, ‘by hook or by crook’, which, dating back to 1380, means ‘by any means necessary’. Here, Spiers channels this irreverent urgency, and ditches traditional hierarchies and expectations.
The works feature nuns with flaming ginger pubes and testosterone charged bulls with shiny golden bollocks. A tangled tongue twisting kiss between zany eyed lovers. A face from Edo period Japan is rendered three dimensional with CGI precision. A sweating Tamara de Lempicka, built from the heavy musculature of one of Michelangelo’s women, recalls the war time poster ‘we can do it’. Munch’s Madonna, lit for the silver screen, ossifies from the fingers into a b-movie zombie. A deranged Miro-like, globular woman is pulled from the flatland, tormented by a decadent gilded mirror.
Lit by the mysterious glow of Tenebrism, Spiers’ figures adopt form like a protean substance that inconsistently borrows from historical visual references without deference to chronology. Hopping across antiquity, renaissance, classicism, baroque, romanticism, and just about all of modernism and cinema, Spiers mixes up familiar citations into a fresh and dazzling puzzle.