It is Head’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and will run concurrently with his participation in Pioneers of Pop at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle.
Beautiful Weapons juxtaposes new large scale digital prints with a group of paintings from 1989-90, made shortly after Head won the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize. In showing new and older works together the underlying consistency of Head’s work in different media is revealed. Both bodies of work are essentially explorations of space and the way it is mediated by technology. Moreover, they represent a continuation of concerns that have preoccupied Head since his earliest installations, an investigation of reality and perception.
Head’s paintings of the late 1980s are derived from the textures and patterns imprinted on many manmade and mass produced surfaces, such as napkins, plastic trays and food packaging. In highlighting these usually overlooked motifs and enlarging them to monumental scale so that they become evocative of biological structures or fields of interference, Head is exploring the technological conditioning of the surfaces that surround us, and demonstrating an almost micro-sensitivity to the nuances of the ways in which our perception of space is manipulated.
In a similar way, Head’s digital works of the last five years address the space of the computer screen and the virtual space of the constructed digital image. They are, in Head’s words, ‘fabricated layers of weightless abstraction fused together with chilled precision.’ Works such as the Gate series (2016) appear to overlap motifs one over another, but in fact consist of illusory virtual structures built within the computer. In the printing process these complex structures are reduced to a single unified layer of ink. Depth is an illusion. Perception is problematised.
Running through both bodies of work is an ambivalence about the moral value of these technologically enabled spaces. Loaded titles such as Perfect World (1990), Omen (2016) and Armageddon (2017) suggest a paranoia or uneasiness about the effects of technology. For Head, all works of art are ‘beautiful weapons’, both potentially seductive and dangerous, and are tools for challenging and re-ordering reality.