Life is a riot, 2006
Rokeby gallery in London is opening an exhibition of new paintings by Sam Dargan on 3 January. Dargan, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2002, creates paintings and drawings that express the alienation and dissatisfaction experienced in contemporary daily life. Isolated middle-income men are depicted in stark and often sinister environments; empty interiors illuminated by a solitary lamp, windswept landscapes, dirty streets, the walls daubed with political graffiti or scenes which could be taken from frames of Zapruder’s home movie.
Full of antagonism, Dargan’s work comments on the imbalance of contemporary power systems. Regularly responding to cinematic imagery and 20th-century literature, and more recently to the melancholy and underlying savagery of the Mannerist period, Sam Dargan’s paintings are consistently infused with contemporary commentary. Often scenes will recall imagery seen in daily newspapers alongside scenes inspired by images found in political historical biographies.
In the recent painting ‘Life’s a Riot’ half-clothed men are bound, blindfolded and lost in an undefined desert landscape, aircraft vapor trails above their heads, one of the businessmen has a sign around his neck, ‘I am cruel and stupid’, the landscape could be lifted from ‘Ben-Hur’ or ‘Star Wars’ but in fact was appropriated from a photograph by Sean Smith found in the English newspaper, The Guardian.
Dargan comments on disillusioned man who has lost his way, and for whom society no longer has meaning. Yet despite the apathy there is an underlying humour which, along with the artist’s accomplished observation of daily life elevates each scene.
Sam Dargan recently won the Oriel Moystn 16th Open (previous winners have included Gary Hume, Simon Starling and Cerith Wyn Evans). A catalogue, with an essay by SeÃ n Kissane, Curator of Exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, is being published to coincide with the exhibition.
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