Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: 'I know karate, voodoo too' - Jail Simmons

Self-labelling his art as ‘sarcastically iconoclastic psychedelia’ (2011), Jail Simmons is a burgeoning 24-year-old artist from the Lower Adelaide Hills, whose art is confronting, disturbing and thought provoking.  He pieces have been sold throughout Adelaide and a full exhibition planned for later this year.

In ‘I know karate, voodoo too’ (a line from Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West”), the themes running throughout Simmons’ portfolio are apparent. Feminine representation through the Mother Nature-like figurehead at the piece’s centre and its control of two headless roosters (cocks), serving as her arms, reinforces a recurring matriarchal view of society and woman’s control over man; the presence of blood and skulls signifies the ever-presence of death; and, the most common theme throughout his works, Satanism, is visible from the various pentagrams and the reversed cross at the front of the piece, portraying a strong discontent and opposition for religious sects and institutions.

Simmons’ use of earthly colours, the sandy yellow, stone grey, blood red, and scrub green, are used in unison with pale purples and dull electric blues, creating a seamless integration between the natural and the psychedelic.  

There is a subtle arbitrariness of the content mixed with the symmetry of the layout that shows an artist comfortable with his subject matter and confident in his skills. Admitting that most of his paintings come from ‘visions and dreams’, Simmons ability to portray these dreams on canvas with acrylic is nothing short of impressive. Although it is very ‘I know karate, voodoo too’ is initially very confronting but it forced me to contemplate upon what I was seeing, which is something I appreciate, having to think beyond what is present.

To me, its defining aspect, as well as is with all of Simmons’ work, is how the unreal can be contained and portrayed in a realistic way. To get a real idea of what he is trying to accomplish as an artist just through this work would be a mistake. With viewing his entire portfolio comes clarity. His ability to exhibit himself on a canvas allows you to learn a lot from any one of his paintings, but as a whole, his collection will provide an insight into the mindset of an artist struggling with the real and unreal, with primal urges and civilised tendencies, and with society in general.

View his collection here (not sure if you have to be friends with him or not):

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