Monday, January 24, 2022

Another full blooded year of art, featuring Steve Jobson

Steve Jobson is back in true form and has pulled off yet another stunning show after a long break. The exhibition at Sophie Lalonde Art Gallery modestly entitled Another Year is as full blooded as any would expect from an artist of this caliber.

It is good to see this new body of work, which is somewhat familiar but just as deeply captivating as other installations the artist has featured in as solo or participated in with co-artists as in the National Art Gallery’s recent Legends. It is refreshing to see Steve’s standard classics in form of cityscapes, a waterfront and a few experimental works with aquarelles and enamel on paper, again rendered with wonderful technical flair and energy.

What amplifies Steve’s persuasive interrogation of urban culture are his recurrent iconic motifs and composition. Steve’s art in my view is cross-referential, juxtaposing familiar environments with experiences from distant places; together with the not-so-subtle nostalgic symbols of an epoch lost or unknown to most of us.

One recalls the previous solo show entitled “Howl” (2009?). The exhibition at the National Museum Main Art Gallery, designed with panels composed to lead the audience through a labyrinth of raw artistic emotions, was homage to Allen Ginsberg’s phenomenal poem entitled Howl. It is worth comparing the two art events for a moment, for one discerns a thread weaving back quite consciously into the present Another Year. It is of course a different dimension the artist is moving in. Understandably the present show is not heavy on theme and is to be seen as simply a collection of new paintings produced during the year, and indeed the artist wants us to enjoy it as such.

On the other hand, the worm-hole of Steve Jobson’s Howl gave us a peep back into the sixties period of decadence: a cultural and social revolution. Steve laid bare the psychedelic atmosphere of that decade with his brushes, the denunciation of materialism, the breakdown of morals as a result of the forced lowering of cultural censorships, the disillusionment and anti-war rage against the Vietnam war, rage against racial and a few other discriminations, declaration of freedom of religious belief…in a word, the ushering in of a brave new 20th century world of free culture and thought: one could somewhat discern a recurrence of notions and emotions at play here and there on the present show, albeit on our contemporary soil.
Especially with Steve’s ever haunting and illusive circus clown, the role of clown played by none other than himself in a few cases.

My interpretation of the circus clown motive may be perceived as off-mark, but I am convinced the image is symbolic of our own ambiguities, our illusive and falsified existences in our own century, where opulence, poverty, broken dreams and thwarted ambitions are captured by the entanglement in form of the clown, an illusion of happiness closely punctuated by introspection, confusion or both. This may well be a popular concept among contemporary artists whose antennas are ever plugged to the drama of their times. But it takes a few artists with grit, skill and sincerity like Steve’s to express the reality convincingly.

I see Mr. Jobson with his ever prodding vision, sometimes expressing hope and humour with his touch of surreal overlaid with sublime poetry of his own, sometimes leading us along as circus clowns or kings and queens, play-acting the otherwise illusive desires in this big hall of broken mirrors called society.

I congratulate Mr. Jobson, and commend the Sophie Lalonde Gallery for a great show and hope the gallery will continue to assume more seriously and meaningfully the exposition and profiling of local artists like Steve Jobson when there is an obvious dearth of such seriousness in our local scene.

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