Elements of popular cultural references, anarchic messages and clever pictorial censorship play out on the walls of Delahunty Fine Art’s new Mayfair premises in London. These are the energy-filled and controversy fuelled canvases of UK based artist Stuart Semple. His new exhibition Anxiety Generation fills the walls of this bright new space with electric colour and a pop-art vibe that draw you in before hitting you hard with the less than comfortable messages at their core.
Here is an artist concerned with the idea of shaking the population out of lethargy and asking the difficult questions like why does it take a war or other major disaster to get us talking to our neighbours and connecting as a community? A sentiment depicted with unflinching bluntness in Technicolour Hiroshima (2014), his use of Morrissey lyrics “[…] the bomb that will bring us together” literally spelling out our failing as a community. Semple uses snippets, scenes and headlines from all manner of popular culture to relate to the viewer and draw them into the conversation. Everything from Spice Girls lyrics and porn images to well-loved cartoon characters and cereal boxes are appropriated into Stuart Semple's flamboyantly coloured canvases.
Highlighted (and sometimes poignantly scrubbed out or censored) words spoken by those in the media, in music, and in advertising are written, stencilled, or illustrated across Semple’s canvases. Words that are already out there and already part of society give us something that we can identify with whilst at the same time asking us to read them in a different context.
The mixture of familiarity and visually appealing imagery may be contributing factors to Semple’s international acclaim and mass appeal; he has been featured everywhere from Miami to Hong Kong, in various media from Esquire magazine to the BBC. With over 15 solo shows around the globe and participation in international art fairs such as Frieze, Art Basel Miami, and Hong Kong Art Fair under his belt, Semple has seen his work find their way into important collections including The Getty and David Roberts.
Fuelled by a longing for more transparency within society and a need to ask the tough questions we are all guilty of ignoring, Stuart Semple is an artist to keep watching.
Stuart Semple's Anxiety Generation is at the Delahunty Fine Art gallery in Mayfair until 4th December. For more information go to delahuntyfineart.com/exhibition/stuart-semple-anxiety-generation.
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor