Stone Roses' John Squire depicts Lohan, Beckham and Rihanna for London return

By Culture24 Staff | 10 June 2011
An image of a painting of blue diamonds and shapes against a grey and white canvas
John Squire, Albert Einstein
© John Squire
Exhibition: John Squire: Celebrity, Idea Generation Gallery, London, until July 3 2011

Nefarious tabloid whispers about the proximity of The Stone Roses’ inevitable reformation may have proved predictably baseless earlier this year, but John Squire’s art is back with a vengeance.

Just in case the Jackson Pollock-style brushwork he covered the band’s immortal 1989 debut with wasn’t high-profile enough, Altrincham’s finest son has decided to name his latest pieces after the likes of Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan, David Beckham and – showing his taste for controversy hasn’t waned – Joseph Fritzl and Harold Shipman. None of them have previously been exhibited.

An image of a piece of artwork showing earth-coloured tiny symbols against a dark red canvas
Rihanna© John Squire
“It’s a brief respite from the endless bombardment of celebrity images,” he argues, replacing the names of these “modern idols” with simple names and patterns.

“It asks, ‘how often do we really need to see copies of complete strangers’ faces, and why do we collectively choose those particular people?’”

An image of a piece of artwork showing tiny white and brown symbols against a brown canvas
Harold Shipman
© John Squire
In a spiritual twist Squire’s old mate Ian Brown would nod his feral features to, these patterns are inspired by the mythical eight-pointed star, a religious and astronomical symbol which has represented the eight paths of Buddhism, deities of Chinese tradition, Babylonian Star Cults and the Gods and stars of the Ancient Sumerians.

For Islamic artists, who are forbidden from depicting Allah and Mohammed, the focus on pattern and geometry has always been a method of avoiding idol worship, so Squire has echoed their ethos of design and ornamentation.

An image of a piece of artwork showing tiny curved dark red and orange symbols against a white and grey background
David Beckham
© John Squire
“I applied this concept to the Gods chosen by modern Western culture – those whose stories have been told and retold and whose images have been mass-produced to such an extent that they are granted a kind of immortality,” he adds.

Vivienne Gaskin, one of the organisers of the show, suggests Squire’s theory brings the “contemporary obsession with fame and celebrity” into “critical focus”.

An image of black abstract print symbols on a white canvas
Lindsay Lohan
© John Squire
“The paintings call into question our celebration of known figures and, crucially, the value systems we have adopted as a society,” she says.

“These works show Squire as an abstract painter firmly in the British modernist tradition.”

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