The Aerosol Assassin: Refining the spirit of graffiti, of guerrilla art can be a tricky practice in contemporary arts. Although contemporary and post graffiti has become an important genre within art today, it is still too often viewed with a specious eye. Talking about contemporary graffiti in art history, the discussion generally starts with Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat and ends with Banksy. All this in mind, John Williams – DUEL – sidles the thin boundary between contemporary art and his much loved street work, a foot either side of a distinct line. Duel’s technique is much lauded by his – street – contemporaries, it is also easily recognized by those who gaze on contemporary abstract art. Duel’s refined stensiling style drags the mind back to Post-Painterly Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism, in this vein Duel is very much an Action Painter.
Duel’s Aerosol Assassin exhibition is a little reminiscent of Mark Tobey’s more intricate works, and like Tobey Duel’s pieces are infact works within works, multi layered, multi messaged geometric abstract works that begged a viewer to seek THE hidden meaning. Amusingly the artist informed me that each picture has a hidden word, then warned he’d had people stand in front of a picture for 45 minutes trying to find it. This latest show is a serious collision of gestural abstraction and guerrilla street art, the works lift Duels art to his next level. The works are intricate, layered and spontaneous. Bursts of color have always been part of Duels form, many of his current works simply pop with color, line and contrast.
“A big part of the inspiration for this show came from Denny Dent, his art and his physical movement making his art really triggered something” said Duel “A big problem in moving from painting the sides of trains to a studio is getting that high, the high you get from running, how do you move that to a studio? “
Attraction to street based works has to be partly based on a seemingly energetic approach, almost an attack on canvass. Staying true to this is a hardship, we all have to make a living and the pressures of conforming to moderation is a hard thing. Duel, fortunately doesn’t seem to suffer any need for an arithmetic mean.
Duels measure is well entrenched in a glorious history of mischief, a bounding talent and an eye that is well attached to a weirdly wired mind. Duel has realized what many miss, that getting any word out there in a single medium is laborious, and getting the word out is what it’s all about.
As a culture, street art is a complex being, a crew, a need for adrenalin, an eye for good spaces, and a style with the ability to stand out from a sea of layer upon layer upon layer of color. Being pursued down the street at speed by angry land owners and city officials also qualifies as a talent, though Duel says he talked his way out of most tight place.
His reputation as one of the worlds finest street artists is important, it keeps him grounded, we are after all what we do. Duel it seems has a need for a public, an audience, his art is and always has been as much about performing as technique, her will doubtless be an interesting – at the least – artist to watch.
“I want different people to view my work in different environments, I like to watch people watch my art, it must be the performer in me, an audience is a good thing”
Duel’s Exhibition Runs Until August 6
Kick Gallery is at 4 Peel Street, Collingwood
For further information visit www.kickgallery.com/duel/
or contact the gallery on firstname.lastname@example.org