William Monk’s (b. 1977, Kingston upon Thames, UK) scenographic works tap into the rich tradition of painting. Monk paints enigmatic and vibrant works, using starkly divisional compositions and often works in extensive series that gradually evolve over time. The canvases carry irregular intensities of detail, line, foreground and background, a sense of repetition breaks down the figuration, creating visual mantras. This rhythm happens throughout Monk’s work, surrendering figurative logic to arrive at something stranger and more powerful. Atmospheric and energetic, these paintings invite a more direct physical connection, drawing in the space between our inner and outer realms of experience.
Monk was awarded the Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst (Royal Award for Painting) in 2005 and the Jerwood Contemporary Painters award in 2009. He recently moved to Brooklyn, NY where he currently lives and works. Monk’s work has been exhibited at Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (NL); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (NL); Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (NL); GRIMM, Amsterdam (NL); James Cohan Gallery, New York (US); Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (US); Norwich University, Norwich (UK); PSL, Leeds and Summerfield Gallery, Cheltenham, London (UK). His work can also be found in the collections of the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (NL); AKZO Nobel, Amsterdam (NL); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (UK); Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (NL); ING, Amsterdam (NL), and in many private collections.
'The idea of painting as mantra interests me: paintings as objects, figurations as images and models used as vibrations to reach somewhere else, beyond ourselves.
I don’t have a fixed method for how I make a painting other than to say it takes time to develop imagery when they are not direct transcripts of the real world but have been created slowly in my mind instead. My ideas take time to filter through my brain and onto the canvas where they collect more ideas and memories along the way. If I return to an image it’s because that process of filtration hasn’t yet ended. Also, the more I work the more I am aware of the difference between the model and the subject and the more those two separate. I think if I were another kind of artist, I'd say these paintings are about climate change, landscape, music, a moment from a film. It's not that I’m not interested in my models and what influences me, but I'm looking for something else under the surface.
‘Turn off your mind relax and float downstream’. That’s why I keep the images slow and repetitive. I'd never get to where I want if I always kept changing course. If I did not keep developing and pushing the images there would never be a falling away from the model to the true value of the work. Pushing something beyond where it’s logical, that’s where I want the paintings to go. A Fool Through the Cloud is part of my ongoing attempt to get through and beyond.'– William Monk, February 2019.
London—Pace Gallery is delighted to present A Fool Through the Cloud, the first exhibition of works by William Monk at 6 Burlington Gardens. The enigmatic title of the exhibition offers a poetic play on words reflecting the multiple readings and interpretations of Monk’s complex mindscape paintings. Moving fluidly between ideas of reality and mirage, and figuration and abstraction, Monk’s reinvention of painting lies in the physical presence of his works as object and the viewer’s experience within the space between them.
Comprising new large and small oil paintings, the exhibition is presented as an installation. Central to this is a suite of paintings titled Sea of Cloud, a Yellow Submarine-imbued zoetrope-like room that features three paintings depicting a montage of what could be interpreted as a cloud forming and dissipating over a swelling sea. Rather than a triptych with a central panel, Monk intends this group of paintings to be read as a repeating montage that could be viewed on loop: a cinematic influence, but also a musical one.
Each painting in the group is comprised of two adjoining panels, with the seam carefully placed at eye level so that the viewer will, as the artist says, ‘feel they’re in the water looking up to the sky, across to the horizon and below to the depths.’