MARS/GOD OF WAR, 2016

"This new series of photographic works by artist Joseph Black are based around the statue of Mars, the Roman God of War, located in the heart of Paris. With the recent bombing and massacre there in November 2015, it is easy to see these works as a lament for the inevitable connection between war, religion, and their terrible consequences. They seem to present the statue as both dictator and divine presider- as though they are in reality one and the same. In some works the double image of the statue shows this similarity explicitly. The figure looks both ways, or is presented in negative, as if to suggest its meaning, and our understanding of, it is inherently complex and conflicted.
 
Black has said that he was interested '[in] the body posture of the figure, and its confidence; the way it is turned to face away from the viewer with its arms outstretched in this kind of crucifix shape'.

 

The way the images have been constructed suggests at confusion. Black it seems, is ever ready to conflict symbols on information. His use of unidentifiable text and numbers hints at a form of museum cataloguing. He uses this to refer to a form of understanding the world in objective terms, which is inevitably at odds with his use of images of gods. One can even see the reappearance of a dead fly used in one of his earlier works. Black studied early on as a painter and it is easy to see the benefit it has given him in being able to construct these complex compositions.

 

The ripped paper at times resembles landscapes and the text hints at a kind of divine but unidentifiable scripture. The works are remarkably similar to early religious painting, they are in their way almost like religious icons. Yet despite their weighty political and existential connotations, they are remarkably peaceful images. They seem to perfectly summarize the difficult position of religion in today's society and its history of fear, persecution, bloodshed, and beautiful art."

-Robert Lewis

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