AboutâRemodernism takes the original principles of Modernism and reapplies them, highlighting vision as opposed to formalism....it upholds the spiritual vision of the founding fathers of Modernism and respects their bravery and integrity in facing and depicting the travails of the human soul through a new art that was no longer subservient to a religious or political dogma and which sought to give voice to the gamut of the human psyche... discarding and replacing Post-Modernism because of its failure to answer or address any important issues of being a human being... it embodies spiritual depth and meaning and brings to an end an age of scientific materialism, nihilism and spiritual bankruptcy... We don't need more dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention, what we need is not new, but perennial. We need an art that integrates body and soul and recognises enduring and underlying principles, which have sustained wisdom and insight throughout humanity's history. This is the proper function of tradition...Modernism has never fulfilled its potential. It is futile to be âpost' something which has not even âbeen' properly something in the first place. Remodernism is the rebirth of spiritual art....Spiritual art is not religion. Spirituality is humanity's quest to understand itself and finds its symbology through the clarity and integrity of its artists.....Spiritual art is the painting of things that touch the soul of the artist.....'
Extracts from the âRemodernism' manifesto. Billy Childish, Charles Thomson, 1.3.2000
Skin is the first exhibition by Ken Spooner at Millennium, but my fourth experience of having the privilege of working with him on Solo exhibitions.
The day before work was photographed for this exhibition I had a meeting with with my friend the art writer, publisher and curator Kate Jago. Unsurprisingly, the conversation quickly got on to matters of art. I made my claim for the possibility of a new romantic revolution on the horizon, the growth of appreciation of an art world for which the relevance of its principles seemed to me vital during these troubled times. For âart' to take its place again as the emotive measure of our humanity, beyond the cool commodity judged by price or swagger. That may be cliché, but so often seems the criteria of uppermost importance. Confusion is deeply felt at a time where many are skeptical of the âgreat art swindle'. So where is the value?
Forget the âisms' and the financial chasms we are on to the intuitive business of making art in the attempt to seek and demonstrate purpose. There are artists who remain outside, making art that is not self referential, not specifically about now, not for a market place, or media stage, but art that is about always and as such is enduring. Ken Spooner is one such artist, stating emphatically that âit is not about what I can do, it is about what the work can do'. The âPrimitive' label that in my experience seems to attach itself to those who do not wish or are unable to conform to the demands of the âpost post-modernist' art world, does not seem adequate or sophisticated enough if we are to enter a changing environment, where artists build on strong historical shoulders as artistic heroes have always done. A world which, if the canvas is clean, has the potential to fit to my idealistic claims, for a revival in unquenched creative endeavor. To make the soul visible and give form to our emotional yearnings.
Ken Spooner is a man who has made his space away from things and gets on with the obsessive and compulsive business of making art, and does so with childlike fervor and intuition. He has in fact been making his art since childhood and is now in his 67th year. I have known him for some time now and marveled at the energy with which he not only creates but re-creates. His oeuvre is very much about his journeying, not walking the same steps, but shifting the beat and changing the tempo, making visual music.
Spooner uses matter to make his work. To make the structure and to make the skin. This use of what comes to hand sparks the idea and creates limitless creative possibility and suggestion. As such painting becomes a discovery of itself and oneself, and Spooner's quest is to discover all the things that a painting can be. He uses a dizzying array of embellishments, some works are quiet, some are loud, some use the language of symbolism others texture, or varying material, or varying colour. The painting dictates how it is made, which skin develops around it. So we see a diverse language, no formula, yet still we see it is a Ken Spooner, perhaps due to the fact that each and every piece has that vital ingredient honesty.
When looking at this body of work the developments are clearly evident. From the flatter âSkin paintings' such as âBase Lines' or âFor the Roses' to the structured âHybrid' works, like tablets, which deconstruct the surface introducing another dimension, the work then develops into a series of works which he terms as âModanti's' incorporating reclaimed frames utilizing and playing with another context in order to create a new one, a new object in its own right and then on to the intricate âIllumi Series' of works incorporating elemental materials such as metal and wood. But importantly and typically of Spooner, the development doesn't go in a straight line. It hops from foot to foot, backwards and forwards. All facets help to reinforce Spooner's unspoken statement of the association with the artist and the alchemist.
It would be easy to see Spooner, the Cornish based artist, showing this body of work in St. Ives, as an artist who continues the St. Ives tradition, but no...too easy, it is just as apt to relate him to Picasso, to Braque, or Debuffet, Rauschenberg, Basquiat, Schwitters, of course Alfred Wallis himself, indeed the list goes on because the tradition is wider and goes beyond the surface in search of the primitive human core.
So yes a tradition continues, as humanity itself continues, and the emotive forces that create a need in us to communicate and make sense through the process of the hand making its mark continues.
When asked about his work, without the slightest grain of pretence or ambiguity Ken replied âI can't talk about what it says, or what it does, for me that is the evolving mystery. That is the alchemy'