For his first exhibition at Valentin gallery, Poison IV, Brian Kokoska offers an installation that unfolds like a monochromatic total environment, home to a set of new paintings and sculptures. Initially limited to the plane of a painting, and then gradually extended to the exhibition space, the coloured tonality chosen for each series of paintings—in this case a swampy pale green and a ultimate-black—spreads its colour over the walls, carpet and ceiling, but also through sculptures and assemblages created from found items. All of the elements that make up this environment are merged and homogenised by an all-over chromatic, plunging the viewer into a layout whose spatial informations—depths, perspectives, scales, thickness, volume—are diminished and altered.
On the same principle as his previous projects, Poison IV treats the exhibition space like a three-dimensional image in which the viewer circulates more visually than physically. These spaces can by turns evoke the simplified and schematic codes of 3D modelling, TV scenery, or the reassuring symbolism of a child's bedroom, as well as the psychological conditioning strategies of rooms used for testing or detention. This tangle of references defines a fluctuating emotional context, stimulating childhood memories or perceptional constraints, revealing a space that is simultaneously magical or traumatic, warm and/or chilly. These antagonisms cancel each other out to give the feeling of a space that is impersonal, fuzzy and relatively abstract.
The figures that populate (haunt) this environment proceed from the same type of composition strategy, the artist using a repertoire that is just as reduced and schematic: spontaneous gestures, primary shapes, monochrome backgrounds and a deliberately limited lexicon. Tears, flowers, numbers, spiderwebs and crescent moons for example are so many motifs equivalent to eyes, mouths and bodies that attempt to form a “persona”. The unity of any identity representation or meaningful interpretation is de-coordinated by the proliferation of possible combinations between contradictory, fragmented signs, motifs and emotional registers. Derived from an effect of interlocked screens, these figures ceaselessly switch between divergent iconographic codifications—male, female, animal, vegetable, when mobilising and combining registers of abstraction, caricature, cartoons, diagrams or psychograms in a morphing structure.
With the aim simultaneously stimulating and arresting viewers' projective automatisms, like their natural tendency to anthropomorphise shapes or translate them into emotions or gender attributes, Brian Kokoska's painting draws its efficiency from its ability to imitate the breakdown of the identification process, to dismantle the attributes of the personality while at the same time redistributing them.
The human figure is treated as a schematic “serial object”. If contemporary societies produce identity standards fit for measurement and statistics, by facing/defacing the figure as a set of edgeless, shapeless signs that cannot be harmonised nor formally or symbolically, Brian Kokoska's figures evoke a state of simultaneous destruction and metamorphosis. It is a kind of sensitivity that the artist conceives as “post-human” ( that is also “pre-mirror” state), one that shows us our own poisoned reflection.
Text by Clara Guislain.
Photography by Sylvie Chan-Liat, courtesy of Valentin Paris and the artist.
Brian Kokoska - Poison IV
Valentin Paris, September 5 - October 10