Roman Lika's most recent body of work incorporates excerpts from the Financial Times Weekend Magazine's "Life & Arts" section, from which it draws headlines including "Wealth Creations", "Chalet Girls" and "Risqué Business", as well as passages from "How To Spend It" (HTSI), the publication's insert that promotes luxury products aimed at the super affluent. In Lika's practice, advertisements for auctions of blue chip post-war art and the latest fashions from the world́s runways conjoin under semi-translucent, perforated mesh, are treated with spray paint rendered in a tie-dye aesthetic, and gain punctuation through eyelets that unmask layers of black cling film and newsprint bearing traces of the FT's distinctive rosé hue. The formal determinations of these interventions extend the artist's investigations into the language of painting problematising dominant models of the practice's limits while iterating shape, texture, and haptic engagement as contributors to painting's ongoing redefinition.
The ephemera of wealth creation, such as the FT and its sub-publication, act as barometers of the obscene logic of late-capitalist models of consumption in which seduction is a principle currency owing to its trade in the unceasing renewal of synthetic desires. It is in this arena that Lika's work activates an irresoluble tension: existing as an object whose aesthetic qualities contribute to its legibility as a commodity that operates dually in signaling the spirit of the contemporary while elaborating an implied critique of the very systems that sustain its production and distribution. The post-critical approach evident in his works´ refusal to point out the already obvious speaks to the difficulty of generating a critical position that amounts to more than a default conceit.
Instead, a strategic incitement of over-identification with the display of the artist's selected materials cues viewers to make sense of the work ́s ambiguities prompting speculative readings in place of attempts to drive a specific point home. The hierarchy of means and ends is manipulated to generate unforeseen results, both in terms of material functions and their respective references and ideologies.
Roman Lika is the artist of the apocalypse, the artist of our times and these are indeed strange times. His work could be seen as an archeology of the Contemporary, a sacrificial over-identification with an idea of what art is for, that we really should get over, a mercurially Janus-faced satire on our desires constructed through art's contemporary dead end. Is it a calculated endgame? Sure. But what is being gamed out is the end of the neoliberal project and with it the collapse of its ultimate cultural expression Contemporary Art. And, if we're on the verge of a paradigm shift in art that could be as fundamental as the crumbling of the modernist project in the1960s, then it will be up to us to figure out what a new art could be for beyond the 'Contemporary'.*
* excerpted from the essay `This is the End́ by Christopher Kulendran Thomas, published on the occasion of the exhibition NU BALANCE by Roman Lika at Rod Barton Gallery
, London, UK, 2012.
Complementing the shifting selection of works on view, newly commissioned texts by Ali Eisa, Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Nina Wakeford reflect ongoing discussions with Lika that will be published alongside the exhibition as a folded poster designed by Thomas Bush incorporating a printed version of a digital collage by the exhibiting artist. An unfolded version of the poster with the addition of a screen printed color gradient is available via the gallery as a special edition of 100 copies signed and numbered in addition to the complimentary copies on display.