Southern Guild presents Loveland, a collection of large-scale, enamel-on-glass paintings by up-and-coming artist Jozua Gerrard, on view from 19 August to 17 September. Gerrard’s solo exhibition, his first with Southern Guild, explores his personal experience of contemporary youth culture – its connections and disconnections, utopian projections and ever-present shadows.
Gerrard’s fascination with the everyday is central to his paintings, which he describes as “little windows into people’s existence”. He transports ordinary scenes into heightened realities, creating new worlds dominated by bold colours and magnetic, symbolic characters. Loveland is one such reality, a utopia of sorts where things are not as perfect as they seem – much like the worlds projected by social media.
Loveland is a series of tableaux depicting pairs of friends partying and individual figures smoking, lounging or self-consciously posturing for the viewer. A sense of disconnect, of aloneness, disrupts the perfection of Loveland, introducing a darker tone amidst the bright and playful scenes. Several dualities arise as a result, a theme throughout Gerrard’s work.
His generation, he says, uses social media as an augmentation of themselves. “We don’t think of it as a tool, but rather a direct extension of ourselves and our minds,” says Gerrard. “Once you realise that it’s not perfect for everyone, things open up.”
His bright, horned mask is a signature motif, conveying multiple symbolic meanings for the artist. He describes this mask as an attempt to reclaim the notion of ‘primitivism’ from colonialist appropriation by placing it in an everyday, contemporary context. The mask allows the wearer to skew or hide their identity, giving them the space to be more than one thing simultaneously. “It’s like you’re saying ‘It’s me, but I’m still hiding,” he explains, “It is always me behind the mask.” This asserts Gerrard’s fluidity and his conscious moving away from restrictive labels often imposed on individuals, an entrenched societal inclination. The wearer becomes faceless, non-specific and emotionless, and in turn, gains access to a new reality: the one Gerrard creates. The mask is supernatural in this imaginary world, providing a protective shield for and against emotions, both external and internal
With their smooth glass surfaces, rounded corners and curved wooden frames, the paintings’ physical format visually echoes that of an iPad – the main instrument Gerrard uses to produce his work. The 11 works for Loveland began as hand-drawn sketches, which are then photographed and uploaded to his iPad where he adds details and layers of colour digitally. The final images are then transferred onto glass, and painted by hand, using enamel paint and markers. Born of an easy transition into and out of the digital realm, they are uneasy depictions of life inside the frame.