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(Private View: Tuesday 14 October 2008)
To step into Sam Darganís studio is to witness the mapping of a bleak new territory. He imagines another, as yet unnamed country, a nascent republic already suffused with disappointment. On a desolate beach the new nation is dissolving into the pleromatic realm, the promised Jerusalem is a landscape of ruins. Portraits of the architects of this recent revolution do not stare out confidently as they might at the beginning of a new era but slump, heads down, divested of agency by the palpable expectation of failure.
The world Dargan depicts is filtered through a lens of disappointment, its defeat has been painstakingly stitched into it. This is a land fractured by the sneering contempt of the pub cynic, the mournful ruminations of the old soldier and the more than my jobsworth attitude of the bloke at work. The psychology of disillusionment forms a complex circuitry throughout Dargan's oeuvre; the idea of being resigned to a life half lived and the striving to achieve a ëdreamí that leads only to boredom, becomes a recurring motif. But this work does not represent a retreat from political engagement, more it is a subjective mapping, an attempt to seek out a new space. Dargan assumes the role of working class intellectual plundering the history books in the municipal library, nostalgia in his hands becomes a weapon of revenge. These paintings are pathological, angry, and resentful. Yes we want something else the forlorn subjects seem to be saying, but where lies the alternative?
There is an initial feeling of claustrophobia in the small paintings until you realise that they act as portals to the imagination - a place Dargan takes us not in search not of refuge but possibilities. The profusion of images and transcendence of temporal zones suggest a puncturing of amnesia, and an end to the flattening emptiness of postmodernism. He seeks out moments of rupture, breaks in the smooth space of history that they might behave as Jetzeits 'now times' and allow for new trajectories to form.
Eclectic references from the repressed psyche are montaged together and strange juxtapositions create jarring new readings. Dargan escapes into another land, a land constructed of fragments, relics of other eras. An intertwining of the lost signifiers of social change evades ironic recuperation and instead forms vistas of melancholia.
The anarchist black cross, anti war badge and red star become fragments saturated with longing. Conspiracy theorists, maverick priests and anarchist heroes jostle for position in this world of outsiders. A constellation of dissent flares up in the murk. The ordinary bloke at work goes mad in the town centre with a machine gun, the box bedroom conspiracy theorist scribbles notes and the loner extremist desperately attempts to make connections to impose order on a nebulous neo liberal system. Dargan weaves them together in a seamless dream like way forcing unexpected connections to emerge. He presents us with a diorama of uncomfortable dreams. They are uncanny, forcing us to see the people we know as revenants, strangers from a different time. Dargan doesn't offer solutions to the problems he wrestles with, but contributes to a cultural ambience that acts like capitalism is already dead. The problem is what happens now?
In a dark woodland explosions of white light pierce the gloom.
Text by artist and writer Laura Oldfield Ford.
This is Sam Dargan's second solo exhibition at the gallery, which presents a series of brand new paintings encapsulating a dismal revolutionary crew. The exhibition will be presented within a specially constructed space inside the gallery and a film club will run throughout the exhibition showing films selected by Dargan that influence and contextualise his practice. Sam Dargan graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2002; he is nominated for this year's John Moores Painting Prize and in 2006 won The 16th Mostyn Prize. His work has been exhibited regularly throughout the UK and beyond and is in important international collections.