Jess Johnson on James Gleeson

Part of a series of new perspectives on portraiture commissioned for Archie Plus

James Gleeson

The sower

1944
oil on canvas
Purchased 1966
© Gleeson/O’Keefe Foundation

‘Body horror’ is a movie subgenre (coined by Australian artist Philip Brophy) that depicts graphic transformations of the human body (think Clive Barker and David Cronenberg). These violations of the body often represent contemporary social and psychological anxieties. In this painting, I see the figure engaged in a struggle against their very nature, their warped body tearing itself apart, its tumorous appendages wrestling for control – a physical manifestation of competing impulses and internal struggles.

A sower scatters seed to propagate and multiply. But our human desire to create, nurture and grow seems dangerously entwined with our urge to dominate, divide, vanquish and destroy. In 2020 a sower may seed ideas, not grain. What if these seeds were misinformation, distrust and hatred? The farmer’s field is now a toxic garden flourishing online, nurtured by the viral attention of seven billion minds.

Jess Johnson is a New York-based New Zealand artist who’s feeling like reality has become fiction

View this work and more as part of the Gallery’s collection online