7 – 23 JUN.2018


A solo show by Bemodern (Paul Darragh)

Game of Life is a solo exhibition by Bemodern (a nom de plume used by artist, Paul Darragh). Operating under Bemodern for over ten years, Bemodern has built his creative practice and identity over Aotearoa, Australia and the United States. Game of Life is an exhibition of Bemodern’s dynamic acrylic paintings on canvas which reference time/decay, Chuck Jones (and his contribution to the Warner Brother productions) and board games.

In the lead up to Game of Life, Bemodern considered two exhibition titles; Game of Life and Crack is Wack. The former was America’s first popular parlour game, which, alongside being a form of entertainment, reinforced societal norms and moral behaviour. Encouraging the players’ sense of agency in life, there was also a significant element of chance which was originally achieved using a teetotum (as die held negative gambling associations). Crack is Wack on the other hand, references one of New York’s most iconic murals, painted by artist Keith Harring in 1986. Inspired by Haring’s studio assistant Benny who was struggling with drug addiction, Haring’s work was a public plea to the government to address drug issues in the city. Both titles reference Bemodern’s connection with America, from childhood through to now. Game of Life plays homage to Benny and the win or lose aspect of American culture.

Splintered lines and black holes can be found throughout the exhibition, evidencing pressure, weight, and wear that occurs over time. Bedmodern plays with this imagery throughout the works. In Shadow of a doubt the pawn sits perched just to the left of an ominous black shape – is it a shadow or a hole? The orange pawn who stares down the tunnel takes the form of both artist and viewer, whilst simultaneously appearing rooted to the space in road-cone-orange hues. Throughout the works, Bemodern negotiates ideas of safety and risk, and success and failure. Humanity is depicted as a pawn, insisting that we are all somewhat the same, and that luck is an irrefutable factor.

Cracks and pawns are not the only symbols present within Game of Life, Bemodern paints a wedge of swiss cheese, an apple, a snake, and a ladder, amongst other inanimate objects. Bemodern discusses the importance of accessibility in his work and hence his use of iconography as a method of maximising the communicative power of his art work.   

Portals to multiverses and glimpses into other realms also populate Bemodern’s paintings, predominantly represented by black abysses. Stitch fix reveals this most obviously, where a single needle fastens thin fabric, keeping us from a parallel universe. Apple, on the other hand, reveals this whilst also alluding to our relationship with technology - another form of alternate reality.

Seriocomedy adds another layer to Bemodern’s practice which he imbues in his work through narrative and style; the wedge of cheese balances precariously on its tip but it is of course a Mouse trap. Throughout his childhood, Bemodern was taken with Warner Bros productions and their clever ability to position pain or tragedy alongside humour. Visually, Bemodern salutes Chuck Jones throughout his work through line, staged compositions and palette. Garish, dominating colours such as lime green, sunshine yellow and Crayola magenta are employed to create dynamic, energetic compositions which are further enhanced by the paint application. Backgrounds are most frequently applied with a brush in flat, opaque colour fields. Atop, Bemodern sprays transparent marks in loose, fluid movements, which give a sense of vibration and action. Chunx 1 and Chunx 2 illustrate Bemoderns love for manipulating space, with chunks of debris hurtling through space, reminiscent of Dorothy and Toto inside the tornado.

Game of Life is a fun exhibition which houses deeper meanings for those who wish to delve. Containing multiple meanings and interpretive possibilities, Bemodern invites you into his world of symbolic, predominantly American, references layered up upon each other. These are based upon his experiences, but many of which he is sure you have also shared.

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