Repetitive Motifs: Is Pop Art still relevant?

Rebellious young artists of the 1960s began to push against the ‘correct’ art they were taught at school, and endeavoured to more honestly portray their lives and the world around them. 

With the current updates on The Warhol Foundation’s legal battle at the US Supreme Court and our recent blog discussing Lady Gaga’s reimagining of famed art pieces, we’ve had pop art at the front of our mind. Seemingly a dated concept usually associated with hippies, free love and peaceful rebellion, the Pop Art movement isn't necessarily a thing of the past...

As the Pop Art movement began to thrive, particularly in the UK and USA during the 60s and early 70s, artists took reference from popular and commercial culture to feed into their creative processes. We find this incredibly interesting given the volume at which Pop Art pieces are nostalgically referenced today, forming internal intertwined loops between art and culture. Either way, the culture behind the movement was booming. Rebellious young artists of the 1960s began to push against the ‘correct’ art they were taught at school, and endeavoured to more honestly portray their lives and the world around them. 

As ever, this passionate and fast growing movement raised many eyebrows from critics. The majority of Modernist critics detested pop artists’ “use of such ‘low’ subject matter”, as American artists found inspiration in iconising the mundane elements of their everyday lives. Meanwhile, British artists were motivated by the illusion of American culture and iconography as observed from a distance, and began to amalgamate the imagery with ironic undertones and tongue-in-cheek comedy.

It’s quite hard to come by someone who hasn’t at least heard the names of Litchenstein and Warhol. Typically covered in most school curricula since the 1990s, the two present the pinnacle of Pop Art mastery. At the height of the movement, American artist Roy Lichtenstein entered the Pop Art scene with his disruptive approach to art. Inspired by the comic strip and pop culture references, Lichtenstein became known for his eccentric portraits with witty speech and thought bubbles. Enraging art critics by incorporating totally informal elements into the well executed imagery, Lichtenstein was one of the first to successfully exhibit an alternative form of art from the pretentious Modernism that dominated at the time. 

Roy Lichtenstein’s One Dot at a Time

The work of artists like Lichtenstein paved the way for art to relate to something other than itself. Just as the Renaissance bound mathematics with art, the Pop Artists brought forward comedy and inference. In the modern art world it’s common practice for movements from the past to be somewhat referenced in current pieces. However, Pop Art as a genre proves to be infinitely flexible, enabling current artists to borrow and mould elements, while still maintaining their own voice. 

Current practices inspired by elements from the original movement are used to drive forward artwork by deepening meaning, or as tools to further communicate an existing meaning to the audience. Joseph Klibansky, famed for his eccentric sculptures and ‘school desk scribble’ pieces, employs that staple aesthetic of the Pop Art movement, fusing recognisable objects with the bizarre and unexpected. His piece ‘For The Most Beautiful One’, which exhibited during ARTZURID 2021, is an excellent example of the general concepts and tone. A classical bust, whose head is replaced with an amalgamation of an elephant and a fly in garish gold. The combination encourages a humoured response from the viewer, provoking both shock and critical thinking as to why the artist chose to combine these specific elements.

Joseph Klibansky's For The Most Beautiful One

Other artists focus more on aesthetics and techniques developed during the Pop Art movement. Dan Parry-Jones doesn’t necessarily focus on utilising imagery for comedic effect. Rather, he employs a technique of carefully selecting colours and graphical motifs to imply location and atmosphere. His keen eye for combining cool blues with warming ochres and pastel pinks connotes temperature and time beautifully, suggesting warm, lazy afternoons in a South Beach setting. Not unlike Warhol’s repetitive patterning with alternate colours, Parry-Jones’ use of screen printing motifs over layers of textured acrylic speak to similar practices from the 60s & 70s. However, Dan Parry-Jones builds on the foundations of the Pop Art movement, making his work a truly unique step forward from his influences. 

Dan Parry-Jones' Two Swimmers With Three Palms

Motifs repetitively printed on Parry-Jones’ work, often depicting mountainscapes, casually dressed youthful figures and American cars, are taken directly from the artist’s own photography. So, while the images may well be from ‘the everyday’, seemingly insignificant moments in time the artist captured from a distance, they are by no means mundane. The implementation of small elements from his photography welcomes an intricate narrative. The viewer could relate to a single figure portrayed in a piece, could consider how the isolated images from different settings could create a whole new narrative together, or could imagine how these individual figures’ narratives exist alongside each other as in real life.  

We're absolutely delighted to be exhibiting an entirely new collection of these pieces from Dan Parry-Jones. His new collection will be available to view at Hancock Gallery Tuesday - Saturday from 10am - 5pm until the New Year - don't miss out! View the exhibition

View the new exhibition or follow us on Facebook for updates, sneak peeks and more on the new collection.

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