Saturday, 8 September 2012

Art: John Purchase, 'Synth-Pop-Art' @ North Bar, Leeds, October 2008, exhibition review

John Purchase’s work, currently on display in the North Bar, harks back to the 1980s: a time when everybody drove to work on their Sinclair C5s, all films starred Dan Ackroyd or Eddie Murphy (or both), and everybody wanted to be in the Human League. Purchase tells us on his website that: ‘I'm a huge fan of the 1980s with all of its neon lights, synthesizers, feel good films and mullets. I was born in the wrong generation.’ Of course, this is a myth. For those of us who remember the eighties, will probably think of mass-unemployment, Thatcher taking away the kids’ milk, and widespread deprivation; with its grey precincts and another Ken Loach film about how hard it is to be Northern and on the dole. To Purchase’s credit, he ends his statement by telling us that: ‘In life, I try to see the positive AND NEGATIVE in everything and then I balance the positives and negatives on a pair of scales to see which outweighs the other and from there I make my decision. I'm a realist but also a romanticist.’

Purchase’s work reminds me of some of the art in New York in the late-seventies. (Think Laurence Gartel meets Keith Haring and you’re in the right area). The work is lively, crowded and colourful. Looking like zig-zags and explosions of highlighter pens, the Synth-pop-art series of works is actually an incredibly complex set of collages. Occasionally, one can see through the harsh spikes of green and neon flickers of glittered silver and luminous orange.

After the initial impact of the works’ overwhelming colours and lines, and after considering the impressive technical dexterity of the artist, I am left thinking that only exhibiting one or two of these pieces may have had a greater impact. The works in the Synth-pop-art show, though energetic and abstract, are essentially variations on the same theme.

But let us not be too hasty. The Synth-pop-art show lead me to John Purchase’s myspace. His portfolio of work is incredibly impressive. I have always seen abstract art as a worthwhile experiment, but one which eventually leads an artist to make an endless series of works based around the same concept

The work displayed on Purchase’s website offers a range of styles. I was especially drawn to his figurative work: original, colourful and resonating with expression.

Synth-pop-art must be considered as a part of Purchase’s work and is not representative of his oeuvre. I can easily see Purchase’s work being used as graphics for flyers and posters for an eighties electro night.

John Purchase is clearly a talented artist, and so long as he retains
variety in his work, he should be a successful one.

This review was originally published in Art Fist magazine, 2008.

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