In Plain Sight
7 Dec - 13 Dec 2021
11 Jan - 30 Jan 2022
Daniel Benjamin Gallery is pleased to present In Plain Sight, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Andrew Maughan, in his first solo show in London.
The paintings in this exhibition are part of Maughan’s ongoing series of works obsessively centred around the image of a male protagonist known as The Great Assassin. Inspired in part by the famed Zodiac serial killer, specifically a police sketch detailing the unusual home-made outfit he wore during an attempted double murder.
“The story of the Zodiac (a man who murdered people, used the news media to spread fear, disinformation and increase his own infamy, then got away with it all) echoes that all too familiar story of power-hungry white men who abuse their position. A white man, hiding in plain sight, who never paid for his crimes.”
In Maughan’s works, his Great Assassin is simultaneously aggressive yet distressed, and wears a hooded mask made of black hair with two large eyes cut out from the canvas. Whilst oozing dark, perplexing perversity, he’s often depicted engaging in the most mundane and naive of actions. In Monkey’s Blood he enjoys an ice cream on a clear day. In Le Cercle Rouge he smokes a cigarette whilst out in nature. In much in the same way that Philip Guston’s hooded Klansman works breed both panic and folly, so too these works slowly unveil a vocabulary of violence, phobia and transgression.
Similarly, Maughan’s Great Assassin is
“A metonymic coagulation of several sinister streams of Signification, swirling around art and history. The monstrous, magnetic confrontation of Edvard Munch’s The Murderer (1910) here spills into an ideogrammatic infantilisation, of both design and definition, that echoes Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly paintings.”
-Matt Carey-Williams, Victoria Miro Gallery
The innate power of the mask as an identity obscurer is further amplified by an inevitable yet subtle foreboding. The Assassin works seek to address the fear of ‘the other’, while oscillating between anxiety and the absurd.
His passivity in the face of climate change, as can be seen in Notes from a Small Island, which addresses a specific, familiar brand of moral ambiguity: an awareness of being complicit in the problems of the world, but slow to sacrifice comfort for the cause.
Sunglasses, Lidl bags, steel pans and darkness mediate the experience of the world, this distortion amplified by the media, which thrives on fear, and generates paranoia around contemporary events, from the poisoning of spies in Europe, the global pandemic, and the island-mentality behind Brexit.
Maughan’s interest in and critique of media sensationalism can be seen in The Last Man in Europe, the title of which is inspired by the original name of George Orwell’s 1984. The painting instantiates the bias often created by the media in its depiction of two opposing front pages of the Daily Mail; the page on the left portrays the day of Brexit while the page on the right illustrates the day the United Kingdom joined the European Union in 1971, both of those campaigns were strongly supported by the journal. The newspaper thus acts as both a mask and a shield for the figure who hides behind the ever-changing propaganda. Furthermore, in composition and colour, the work alludes both emotionally and visually to The Scream by Edvard Munch, a deep sense of anxiety for what the future can hold for us. The boot that is so prominent in the composition is clearly boasting “Made in England”, a nod to the iconic Dr. Martens, historically worn by British skinheads.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”
Inhabiting the space are a cast of three-dimensional faceless figures echoing vintage Hornby railway figurines. A classic British toy, Hornby’s collection of miniature characters traditionally reflected white, middle- class, middle-England.
In this series, Maughan retains the awkward anonymity of their form, rendered in poorly-painted Jesmonite and swelled to life-size proportions. The work is inspired also by the fixed- smile dummies of nuclear test-site ‘doom towns’ in 1950s America. Much like building a model railway village, the work acts as a user’s own version of The Truman Show, where he or she is in full control the world and its reality.
Andrew Maughan (b.1987) is a final year postgraduate student at The Royal Academy of Arts, London.