HIJACK. Lou Ros. By Ashraf Jamal
‘Post-Truth’ is the defining word for this day and age, a sign for moral crisis and the loss of credibility and believability. No one knows what to think anymore, what to feel. Divine arbitration died long ago. What irks us now is that empirical or secular truth – material fact – has equally been junked. Without a god, without credible consensus, we are left with viral uncertainties. Hermes, the god of thieves, is an early mythological reminder that we have always messed with the Truth. In the 20th century – the age of deconstruction – this project became the new normal. No matter how desperately the moral amongst us rail against the death of truth, a death which we have consciously embraced, a death which has rendered us soulless and cruel, there is no escaping the treachery at the core of our social organisation, and the subsequent nature of our taste and value.
We no longer possess a default functionality. Computation, whether technical or psychological, has been hijacked. It is apt, therefore, that Lou Ros should reflect this current state of play in his solo exhibition. To hijack is to seize in transit, hold to ransom, deflect agreed intent, to re-direct the focus. In tech terminology it defines a piece of viral software or malware program that alters a computer’s browser setting. But of course hijacking comes in many guises, it shape-shifts many different default positions. In painting Manet’s ‘Olympia’ could be regarded as a hacking. From the 19th century onwards we have innumerable examples of this rerouting of the supposed default functionality of painting. No longer a mirroring of the world but a peculiarly subjective upending of the lore of mimesis – the assumption that the world precedes the word – painting, like writing, has become a radically relative exercise that begged the question: Was there ever an a priori default position or predesigned value system? Lou Ros’ paintings are symptomatic of this radical doubt. As an artist he is its inheritor. He well understands, in a sceptical and suspicious age, that ‘the moment where little is enough’ is also the boundary point between meaning and its disappearance. ‘The spectator’s imagination opens at the moment the scene is starting to appear’, he says. So while the artist is well able to complete the scene, it is its inchoate yet suggestive moment – a moment intimated and acutely sensed – which he must pull away from, as one pulls away from a horizon one cannot vault.
It is this withdrawal from a perceived insight, this hovering between clarity and its deliberate obfuscation, which is the moment that a scene is hijacked, or hacked. What we are left with is a residual trace, a gloaming, some piecemeal aggregation that forms the sum of a painting. That we like it like this – unfinished, tangential, prescient-yet-unclear – says everything about our zeitgeist. We cannot know the root of our desires, we cannot apportion absolute sense, we must allow for hobbled and imprecise existences, and embrace life as a damnably, erotically, exasperatingly unfinished text. A face, a body, a scene, defies forensic scrutiny. We have been hijacked by an artist who has been hijacked in turn. The God Hermes kick-started this now inescapably dangerous game.
Lou Ros’ art is centered round the de-structuring of form, rather than simply reproducing the original in perfection. With the unfinished imperfect work he wishes to evoke the viewers interest and imagination. His personality emulates his style where he says: “I never like to finish a sandwich on my plate. It’s a bad habit that I’ve had since I was little”. He treats subjects in a raw, freehanded manner, using explosive, radiant and vibrant dramatization of colors and favoring the distorted, torn figures of their subjects. Similarly the artist works convey a sense of the legacy of Cubism in the shapes, and the automatic writing of the surrealists … sometimes leaving the unconscious expressing itself.
Specifically he wishes to capture the viewer’s interest by allowing them to imagine the end of the painting, or piece together the story in a collage for themselves. Ros allows freedom too in his creation of an artwork, as he works without having a clear idea of the final result, and stops his work before it seems finished. He will captivate one’s eye by transforming that which is clear into a blur and that which is fixed into a movement. His paintings are representations of both the external world and his own inner world. Bonding beautiful colors and interesting contortions with his enchanted paintbrush Ros creates a magical dance on the canvas. The artist finds life in the distorted, vibrant, failed or shaky line more than the nice clean straight lines, which he finds boring. He searches for the strength and freedom in the unfinished painting more than portraying just a beautiful image on a well-finished canvas. An architectural drawing that stops at the foundation of a large house, which is unfinished, and not quite right.
However for Ros, this captures more interest than a completed drawing, saying: “The moment where little is enough to suggest the structure interests me, leaving the spectator’s imagination open at the moment the scene is starting to appear.” Ros often quotes the American conceptual artist John Baldessari to convey his thoughts and approach, “It is only when you have been painting for quite some time that you will realize that to begin your compositions seem to lack impact – That they are too ordinary. That is when you will start to break all the rules of so-called composition and to think in terms of design. Then you can distort shapes, forms invent, and be on your way towards being a creative artist.”