Geniess - John Russell
> Norwich Gallery
Warning – this exhibition contains imagery that some readers may find offensive. However, those among you with a palate for sanguine morbidity and a penchant for controversial aesthetics ought not hesitate.
With eye-catching extremism, John Russell's massive laser print, The Philosophy is in the Meat, will either appal or enthral you.
From a distance you may be forgiven for thinking it is a contemporary homage to Jack-son Pollock, but whereas Pollock strove to eradicate external references in his abstract expressionism, Russell seeks to confront the viewer with visceral violence. And closer inspection of this enticingly coloured, abstract rhythm reveals blood, offal, excrement and mutilation more akin to the Ripper than the Dripper.
But, in fact, I found the less gratuitously grisly piece, Prophesy: Devil's Dictionary, far more disturbing. As a process, Russell's work exemplifies advances in the quality of laser printing. His candid style, conflating scans of painted images with cloned and constructed digital images, allows the viewer to see how the works are layered. This is particularly apparent in Hand Idea: Fantasies of Realism, in which the dismembered digits exhibit ragged evidence of Photoshop's ability to distort reality.
Using the macabre theme to subvert the idea of the decorative, Low Budget Mysticism incorporates a spherical eyeball into a mandala of ornately trapped flesh. Despite the crude appropriation of Christian symbolism, the hammed- up horror of the pieces and acknowledgement of their artificiality suggests you are meant to revel in their risible shock value.
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