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Justin Fitzpatrick's second solo exhibition at Sultana opens in Paris
Justin Fitzpatrick, Untranquilised Horse, 2019, oil on canvas, 143 x 113 cm.

by Julie Ackermann

PARIS.- Why do we consider it an insult to call somebody a whore? Do we imply that there is something degrading about being one? The word ‘prostitute’ is so firmly fossilised in our linguistic systems as “bad” that this insult, meaningless as it is, persists as a verbal defence mechanism even amongst the most progressive of people. The whore, the essentially despicable woman, exists in language only because of the one who gives his name to this exhibition; the conservative divinity invented by English poet William Blake, Urizen. Dissecting the fabric of reality with his compass, this old bearded man undertakes the enormous task of dividing the world into fixed categories. For Blake, Urizen is a malevolent figure. He wages war on the poetics generated by confusion by imposing baseless and often outdated taxonomies. Although obsolete, these taxonomies continue to impose themselves onto reality at the speed of light: like the whore, or like the zombie police officers speeding down an admonishing index finger in Justin Fitzpatrick’s painting “Seeds of Urizen (Frieze!)”.

In his second solo exhibition at the gallery, Justin Fitzpatrick’s paintings show us the persistent and delirious circulation of ‘ Urizian’ categories, as well as the feelings of shame and fear they bring forth. Laws, social networks, rumours, and tics of language are all revealed as the bearers of Urizen’s judgements: sealed, discrete entities, easily digestible and potentially deadly. These judgements, embedded in language, act like viruses. They mimetically replicate themselves from one body to another, from the individual to the group. They can infect the auditory system (“Stage Design for a Musical About Paranoia”), or a torso and its intestinal flora (“The Evolution of Anxiety”). The bodies and objects depicted by Justin Fitzpatrick are in the middle of metamorphosis. External energies are relentlessly manipulating and mortifying their flesh, and transforming the networks of their minds.

Inspired by a modern and playful range of visual references linked to the idea of production (from socialist realism to advertising) ; the artist reveals the inner workings of the performative machinery of categorisation. Although often absurd, carceral and inherently restrictive, categorisation ( as a part of creative and critical projects) can also be emancipatory. When it is excessively applied, however, or starts to be used systematically or unthinkingly, it often becomes convoluted, labyrinthine and paranoid. In an age of post-truth, mass surveillance, and the collapse of grand narratives, paranoia is no longer the preserve of unhinged people, geniuses, and addicts. We have all become paranoid, and Justin Fitzpatrick is no exception. As a gay artist, his ear is definitely attuned to judgement and labels. A cross between a circus, merry-go-round, and psychosomatic opera, this exhibition is therefore an attempt to exorcise Urizen, who, when faced with a climate of uncertainty and a crisis of trust, offers us an archaic system of order that enslaves us.

In Justin FItzpatrick’s work, the act of painting is a way to explore the idea of conceptual metaphors; metaphors that structure our world view and perspective. Painting, in an improvisational mode, can turn the process of metaphor into a visual performance or an evidence, a constant sliding across the surface of a subject, it can enact the semantic jumps the mind makes when likening one thing to another and it provides an evidence of this fundamental activity. Recent works have focussed on diagrammatic, hydraulic imagery, drawing on the visual vocabulary of anatomical drawings, medieval illumination, sci fi book covers and Art Nouveau illustration.
Justin Fitzpatrick (b. 1985, Dublin) lives and works in Brussels. Recent solo exhibitions include A Pulsation of the Artery, Foxy Production, New York (2019), Underworld, Kevin Space, Vienna (2018), F-R-O-N-T-I-S-P-I-E-C-E, Seventeen, London (2018) and Uranus, Sultana, Paris (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Salon de Peinture, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (2019), Pastoral Love, Lucas Hirsch, Düsseldorf (2019), Room Raiders, Mathew Gallery, New York (2018), Material Art Fair, with Sultana gallery at Mexcio City (2018), Whisky et Tabou, Musée Estrine, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (2017), Amazing girls / It’s complicated, Kevinspace, Vienna (2017), The Bloody Chamber, The Koppel Project, London (2017), On and Off, Projectos Medellin, Mexico (2017), Lonesome Wife, Seventeen, London (2016), Streams of Warm Impermanence, DRAF, London (2016), My own private Idaho, Chalton Gallery (2016), Animal Mundi, Solo show, Barbican Arts Trust (2016), I would’ve done everything for you…Gimme more, London (2016), Mask, Glass Box Gallery, Coventry (2016), Caput Medusae, Westminster Waste, London (2016), Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA, London (2015).

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