The exhibition ‘Anti-Social Realism’ soon to open at CHARLIE SMITH, LONDON, will attempt to pose new pictorial possibilities through artworks that tackle notions of contemporary realism and offer us a distant echo of a political reality. The wry misnomer of the exhibition’s title slips between many interwoven threads, simultaneously conjuring up images of ‘anti-social behaviour orders’ (ASBO’s); anarchist riots; or the solitary artist locked away from the world in a studio attempting to connect on a higher level. In this light, the exhibiting artists are presented as ‘social mystics’ and it could be said that their work operates by a means of turning inwards to create social radiation.
In T.J. Clark’s book ‘Image of the People’ (1999), Courbet is said to have disguised himself behind the mask of the savage in order to remain in the centre of the Parisian art world without actually being absorbed by it. Acting as a rustic invader and outsider at La Brasserie Andler, which Courbet frequented in the 1840’s, he sustained his practice by gaining access to this glimpse of bourgeoisie life. This enabled him to comment on the social conditions of the time through his paintings of rural life. In ‘Image of the People’ Clark asks us to question: ‘What is revolutionary art?’ – such as Courbet’s – and ‘What were the effects of a particular Revolution upon pictorial practice?’.
The otherworldliness of social media and the ever present threat to notions of reality of the digital age (where almost everything and anything seems possible) define our contemporary reality, and by that definition, what it means to pursue social and anti-social practices. The search for a means to connect with an audience is relevant today, just as it was in Courbet’s times, and the desire to present the enigma of peasant politics with the confusions and dangers of class systems continues. These artists are banded together in their conviction that art must remain intrinsically social, whilst preserving a duty to question the binds of the social structures it exists within.
The exhibition ‘Anti-Social Realism’ is curated by Juan Bolivar & John Stark, featuring the artists Juan Bolivar, Dan Coombs, Graham Crowley, Karen David, Nathan Eastwood, Geraint Evans, John Greenwood, Sigrid Holmwood, Kate Lyddon, John Salt, and John Stark – from 3 April to 9 May 2015, CHARLIE SMITH, LONDON.