Disposable pictures linger in our smartphones for far too long, it’s only when we have to erase them because the storage of our devices are full that we venture to see our collection of pictures. We then remember that ludicrous night when we thought painting our faces with wax was a good idea, or other embarrassing moments – I would spare you the details…
Julian Simon, 20.20, oil on canvas, 2018
Julian Simon’s exhibition Overexposure at the galerie Chloé Salgado is a gentle reminder of all this imaginary that populates our phones and is doomed to be erased. For Simon though, this is only the first step of his creative process as he recollects all this unwanted material to give it a second life. But he operates differently than us, as during his nocturnal excursions he takes with him a disposable camera that he later develops; the result are blurry photos with fingers on the camera lens, overexposure and too much light from a flash – like in his canvas Hidden Luisa or Leon. In his work, there’s an authenticity that is difficult to find in the so-called perfect composition of instagram posts, we sure all have fallen for this trend, we all have looked for the perfect picture fomenting the reigning uniformity on picture making. Through his paintings Simon is offering our gaze an escape to this by embracing the photographic mistakes and finding beauty in it. For instance, his painting Lilly, reproduces an abstract form, probably a finger on the camera and a bottle of beer.
Julian Simon, Hidden Luisa, oil on canvas, 2018
By putting unwanted material in front of us he’s proposing to see them differently, to SEE and think about the visual garbage we produce. There’s an amazing video by Slavoj Zizek about ecology and garbage where he explains that the latter needs to become more present in our reality in order for us to understand the extent of the pollution we produce. To some degree, Simon’s work is thought-provoking, not only he considers the stream of images we are exposed to but he also points out that we generate it too, this is not a judgemental position but rather an observation, maybe we should stop idealizing the past and accept human’s tendency to fabricate content? The question of the place where this virtual garbage is also raised, his paintings are tombs in which disposable substances find a space to rest and live in perpetuity.
Julian Simon, Cartier, oil on canvas, 2018
Incidentally, Simon’s artistic practice is based upon experimentation, his expeditions portray the nightlife in Berlin, the party capital per excellence. Jean, is a canvas depicting a young man on the floor, his attire and his hairstyle call to mind the famous scene of Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders where Nick Cave sings. Seemingly, this is a homage to the film, to an icon of the city and its party essence. Nevertheless, this is not your regular party framework where everything is festive and life is celebrated, this is another type of gathering where loneliness is palpable. Party looks here more lonesome and intimate, it’s not glamorous and we can easily identify to the scenes Julian chooses to paint; party in all its dullness and triviality finds a space, humanity depicted finally as it is. The artist’s paintings are a personal journal, a sneak a peek into a young man’s life.
Julian Simon, Jean, oil on canvas, 2018
Julian Simon’s strength lies in his ability to represent life as it is, his work is blatantly honest and pure, he never tries to romanticize life, his work simply accepts life just as it is.
Julian Simon, Malik, oil on canvas, 2018
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