Elements of War, an exhibition of new and provocative works by artist Stephen Johnston, will be on showing Belfast from November 1st – 16th 2019.
Known for his work on still life which deals with the subjects of life and death, Johnston’s new series presents a natural evolution in his artistic style. Seeking to make the ordinary extraordinary, Elements of War navigates the grim topic of war and presents it through objects familiar to the viewer, though imagined in a different context. Johnston is interested in the idea that everything we consume from the media is presented in a way that encourages a certain conclusion and asks whether we are being misinformed. This interest in the friction between opposing ideologies is a central theme in Johnston’s work, and he explores the idea that society is becoming more polarised, and that we are subconsciously exposed to the idea of choosing a side from childhood. Some of his works depict children's toys, though morphed into something else entirely.
Johnston’s work encourages a conversation about the elements that make up war, such as power, propaganda, resources and indeed the humans behind it – from those involved in creating the ammunition, to those with more of a direct hand. Johnston also comments on the lack of resources available in wartime, and the need to use objects designed for one purpose in another way. In the artist’s work the objects stand out, depicted hyper-realistically against vibrant backgrounds, a drama befitting of such an important and grave topic as war.
Johnston draws on the Surrealist movement for inspiration, echoing artists like Dali, Magritte and Ernst. Skillful and thought-provoking on their own, the 18 pieces in the exhibition form a conversation between each other. They invite the viewer to add their own opinion to the discussion which makes for a fascinating exhibition.
Stephen Johnston was born in County Down in 1987. He studied Fine and Applied Art in the University of Ulster, graduating with first class honors. His work has been displayed in international galleries such as the Saatchi Gallery in London, RUA Belfast and RHA Dublin.