Jon Pilkington’s work lives in a world of dichotomous unity. His studio is very much an emulation of this thread; the floor splattered with so much paint it would take days to restore, while the walls are starkly white. A pile of paint tubes lies discarded on the ground but just above, on the clean table, palettes are lined out with each color carefully set and ready to be of use.
Pilkington’s gestural and vigorous canvases find themselves toiling to stay self-contained, often jumping off to the next panel. It is this play, this bounce, this control that imbues his work with vibrancy. An underpinning of geometry is challenged by organic forms but then struggles its way back to the surface to lay claim to the structure. The palette is soft and bodily with outbursts of exuberance as if to remind the viewer, I’m still here.
There is physicality to Pilkington’s practice that feels a bit like a rugby player meets ballroom dancer; at times barreling through but always with finesse, gliding and twirling. As the viewer’s eye darts quadrant-to-quadrant and painting-to-painting, one can see him performing, jumping around the studio dripping paint, adding to his mucked floor, and delicately placing a zigzag over an innocuous anthropomorphic form.
Motifs move canvas to canvas, carrying on his own inner disputes, sometimes the paint wins, sometimes, Pilkington. This self-referential process exposes both the vulnerability and sheer confidence in his gestures, which is mimicked in the space of unresolved areas alongside those that are robustly worked. Just as one expects to be let into a final form and resolution, he steps back and denies; confounding the viewer just as he has been. Pilkington pulls out his tool kit on each canvas, actively engaging with the notions of appropriation and subjectivity in historical painting, while simultaneously flipping the past on its head.
Standing in a room of Pilkington’s paintings, a key emerges of past failures; each under a new siege by his brush. One can see this immediately, like an historical record, as light washes overarch dark solid blocks and organic interjections push back on formal compositions. There’s a feeling of hunger in this state and a consistency found in a continuous place of challenge and change. Pilkington will not stop. Like a disagreement that won’t ever quite be resolved, his work feeds off this nagging state of consciousness, battling back against its own narrative.
After all, why the hell should he make peace? Finding balance in the chaos is unattainably attractive.