John Stark’s dark and eerie landscapes and interiors present a mastery of realism, conveying emotion and narrative. Inflected with the suggestion of paranormal phenomena and calling viewers to consider underlying themes, Stark’s works often reflect an ill-fated world struggling within the dissonance of spirituality and science.
His current show “Field Work” at Edward Cutler Gallery, Milan, through October 18, includes a series of paintings partially inspired by the artist’s experiences in Yeongyang-gun, South Korea—the site of Ilwol san (“The Haunted Mountain”) which is the final stronghold of Shamanism. Once the national religion, Shamanism has largely devolved into a marginal superstition, only practiced by most Koreans during times of desperation. In his depictions of Yeongyang-gun, Stark presents ominous industrial interiors, faceless figures, and vacant landscapes tainted by the insecurities of Shamanism at the present. Within the series the spiritual remnants of Shamanism are challenged by images of modern industry, where science is a dominating force.
Stark’s painted spaces, often recalling sites found in horror films, question surface perceptions and highlight underlying spirituality within his art. The paintings in “Field Work” “express diverse methodologies, often veiling a secret light or a vital heat that remains just out of view.” In Interior View, the viewer is placed within an makeshift structure, sparsely furnished and made of cheap, industrial materials. The light that pervades through the plastic-sheet windows and entryway suggests a supernatural presence not yet penetrating the interior space. This use of light is characteristic of Stark’s works, at once illuminating the space and suggesting a presence.
Though Stark’s works are largely realistic in style, often even approaching photorealistic when viewed from afar, close examination reveals a careful, rapid, impressionistic network of brushstrokes. It is the many dichotomies in Stark’s work, spirituality and science, nature and industry, light and dark, among others, that enlivens his work and makes it original, stimulating and intriguing.
“Field Work” is on view at Edward Cutler Gallery through October 18th, 2013.