March 15, 2008

John Currin confesses in British press that stupidity is liberating

John Currin's recent paintings, which will be presented by Sadie Coles HQ in London this April, feature pornographic images that Currin found on the internet. In The Independent, David Usborne reports that Currin is trying to cast these new works in the context of Islamic fundamentalism. "Specifically, the furious reaction in parts of the Muslim world to the publication by a Danish newspaper in 2005 of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohamed. But this is where Currin, almost embarrassed by the murkiness of what he is saying, takes the conversation. 'It's just ridiculous I know, but I should preface this by saying that with everything I do there is usually a kind of alternate structure for the reason I am doing it.' Indeed, settling on some kind of rationale for a new project is akin, he says, to pulling on your collar before serving in tennis.

"Few things motivate, meanwhile, more than anger and that is what was stirred in Currin by the cartoon furore. He was infuriated first by the tirades of some Islamic clerics against the cartoon and was then doubly dismayed by what he considered the cowardly response of the West and its media. 'I found it incredibly dispiriting that the New York Times and Time magazine wouldn't publish the cartoon. After people had been killed over these things, they wouldn't show people what it was about. You could not find it anywhere.' He goes on: 'I am caught up in a lot in fear for Europe and fear for the West, that we will lose the war against Islam. And it is a war against Islam, I think.'

"At this point, I have to confess to losing Currin's thread a little. Are these paintings therefore some kind of repudiation of our political correctness? Or perhaps a celebration of our freedoms, now under threat, including the freedom to disseminate porn? Something like that, he says....'Often, I find myself attracted to ideas that are ill-advised and bad,' he offers. 'It's not because I want to shock people or show how open-minded I am, but for some reason stupidity is a theme for me in painting and I find it liberating... I don't know why, but I feel freer. But perhaps there is some need I have to redeem this silliness with something really solemn and sombre and beautiful.'" Read more.

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