Opening reception on Thursday, September 28 • 6 - 8 pm
Exhibition runs Thursday, September 28 - October 28
“I paint my subjects with a deadpan line because my subjects are tragic.”
Anthony Bartok’s trademark is that delicate mingling of comedy and tragedy that defines a perfect joke, in painting form. In each work, Bartok displays his keen eye for imagery and iconography while using the simple stylistic language of children’s colouring-in books. His works deliver a message of the futility and disconnections of modern relationships and life that comes from the increased obsession with social media and entertainment.
The often cynical nature of Bartok’s humour is offset by the innocence of his style – a balance between the message and its delivery. Some works in this exhibition employ a back-staining method that he learned on a recent trip to New York, adding colour and water to the back of a canvas, allowing it to bleed through. ‘This adds an element of chance that mirrors a child’s hand’s disregard for the image, which in turn mirrors our passive complacency with the major contemporary problems depicted in the work’, says Bartok.
Some of the imagery in this show traces its origins to a series Bartok started while studying at the National Art School. He used ‘found images of explosions, IMAX audiences, global pollution and Justin Bieber’s penis’, reducing them to their bare minimum and adding captions. These images act as blank canvases, offering themselves to interpretations. Utilising the same image of office cubicles, Bartok has highlighted the repetitive monotony of the modern workplace in Christine Works Very Hard so she can Enjoy her Weekends (2016), as well as the Western obsession with guns and violence in Geoff, Looks at some Automatic Handguns on the Internet (2016).
Now, in Home / Office, Bartok has both expanded and minimalised the image, blowing it up into a large intricate matrix of cubicles while doing away with the caption and focusing more on the visual symbolism. At the centre of an ocean of computers and divider walls (looking at the work, one can almost hear the constant ringing of phones in the background) is reprieve in the form of a living room, void of bodies and screens. Home / Office, much like its 2015 predecessor, calls attention to the absurdity of the modern professional’s work-life balance.
‘In my work, I explore the everyday realities and contradictions of living in the modern Western world.’
Anthony Bartok’s work would be sad if it weren’t so funny, shallow if it weren’t so sad, and inconsequential if it weren’t so close to reality – we recognise ourselves in these snapshots. In Mandatory Field, Bartok distills everyday absurdities and turns them into art.