Born in Birmingham, United Kingdom, John Kingerlee’s dense and richly textured paintings are energetic ruminations on chance and possibility, rejecting all selfconsciousness or predetermination. Embracing automatic drawing and intuition, Kingerlee’s works reveal the structures of the unconscious mind that bind all things across time and place. Frequently painting landscapes, faces, animals, and grids, Kingerlee might labor over a painting for years, applying hundreds of layers of pigment and working and reworking the surface with a palette knife or the end of a fine paintbrush. The resulting works are, inevitably, portraits of the artist’s accumulated experiences, but they are also open ended abstractions that speak to the universality of basic human impulses.
Kingerlee’s Head II is a highly tactile, abstract rendering of an anonymous human face. Working with raw pigment to create his own oil paint, the artist builds and removes layers to reveal a viscerally textured composition in muted tones of ochre and pale blue with a deep brick red coursing just beneath the painted surface. The somber face—with sunken eye sockets and a hard-set mouth—is devoid of identifying details and is thus not a portrait as such, but a conjuring of the ubiquitous emotions that drive behavior and unify humankind.
Cullens and Many Days are examples of a practice that Kingerlee has termed SRIKS, a name combining the surname of the artist with those of modern art masters Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg. Both Schwitters and Rauschenberg are recognized for their adept use of collage and assemblage, and thus Kingerlee pays his art historical homage by incorporating his own collections and memorabilia into the paintings. Old notes, letters, drawings, and stamps amassed over Kingerlee’s career are imbued with new life, purpose, and permanence in these works that are rich with history. Cullens integrates an obscured, eponymous printed material into a dynamic composition of ochre, red, and black. Meanwhile, Many Days is slightly more subdued, assimilating printed matter into a sumptuous canvas that appears to replicate the accumulation of memories over a lifetime.