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Ken Spooner

The Universal


Mixed media on canvas, tryptich
120 x 150 cms

’The Universal’ is the most significant painting to emerge from the studio of Ken Spooner in the period 2019 – 2021. It represents the accumulation of a lifetime of painting and the artists’ exploration of the universal symbols, iconography and motifs of western art history. The ritualised totemic forms, however, draw from much more primitive, non-western traditions.

The piece is a triptych, with each panel representing a stacked column which the artist has also been exploring in three-dimensional ceramic work. The individual symbols, or icons, on each totem represent images which have frequently re-appeared in paintings from Ken’s later career. As such, the painting offers a fascinating reflection as it is in many ways a depiction of three-dimensional objects from the studio or from the artists oeuvre – a fabulous meta – a painting of paintings.

The heads are an image Ken has often returned to; representing the head of the artist as a literal and figurative space for creativity. The skull like form offers an oblique tribute to the punk tradition and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whom the artist mentions he met in New York, and since formed a deep respect for his work. The Trojan helmet further reflects the artists fascination with classical civilisation and the tradition of western art history.

The urn, again an image we see repeated in Ken’s two- and three-dimensional work, is often associated with Greek or Egyptian reference, in other forms appearing as a canopic jar. This represents not only the artists fascination with Egyptology, but also his intrigue into the afterlife both of body and artistic output – an artist’s own source of immortality.

The palette features as an important recurring symbol, reflecting the practical function of the act of painting and as a revered tool from which creativity occurs. As such, this art – artefact – takes on a ritual talismanic property. Other references to the studio are apparent, such as the artists’ work bench where an urn seems to be in production.

Throughout, forms mimic and mirror each other; the pallet; the urn; the profile, portrait. The three totems, each having three distinct forms, makes a total of nine. This magic number, both in terms of it’s symmetrical ability and it’s strange pattern of multiplication, is a digit the artist often mentions in conversation. These forms also appear to be icons; mystic objects of reverence.

Magic as a concept is also frequently referred to when in conversation with Ken. The artist acts as a conjurer and vehicle for transformation, in his ability to turn the abstract – the concept or idea – into the physical through his hands, mind, body.

A complex meta relationship is at play – this painting is an image of icons which are themselves representations of other beings or things. These icons of deities are stacked but look precarious. Why are the central portrait and top left profile on their side? Have the old gods already tumbled? What do these icons represent? What meaning do they carry? The central portrait’s gaze stares directly to the viewer yet it’s eyes are shut. The truth lies elusively beyond. These appear to be pillars reconstructed from disembodied statues. The artist has created a new order of meaning from the past.

Complex, self-referential, mystifying and symbolic; ’The Universal’ is an iconic pièce de résistance.

Price on application.
Please enquire via [email protected].

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SKU: KS21-WP132 Category:

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