Josh Rowell

Toxic Relationship


unglazed Portuguese porcelain tiles on wooden substrate

64 x 120 cms

“I think the current global pandemic is a unique occurrence in our lifetime. It is something that we are all experiencing; no matter where you are from, rich or poor, young or old, the threat and the consequences are shared on a global level. If there is anything optimistic to take from this, I hope it can serve as a reminder that we are just one large community, inhabiting a planet equally.

In terms of the impact the virus is having on the art world, again I think there are positives and negatives to be taken from this. With economic uncertainty and restricted movement, the art world (as we knew it) has had to adapt quickly. This is perhaps most evident by the shifting of the physical exhibition space to the online or virtual exhibition space. Whilst I think this will never truly replace the magic of seeing an artwork in real life, it is certainly a good temporary solution and has worked very well for some people. I think it is likely that we will see a power shift within the traditional art ecosystem; some galleries (and their artists) had become heavily reliant on an annual program of international art fairs. I believe that the way in which we travel in the future will change drastically in the coming years, and I think this will have a resulting impact on the power and importance of the art fair / gallery model or relationship. I think galleries and artists will learn to reintegrate with their local, more immediate, communities.

The one thing that is certain, no matter what the changes are to the traditional art world systems we had become accustomed to, is that we will continue to make art. Artists have always responded to historical events and periods of great change. Just as abstract painting was born as a result of the invention of mechanical reproduction, I am excited to see how artists will respond to this ‘new world’ we are entering into that is ever more reliant on digital technologies.”

Josh Rowell

About the work

Rowell’s new mosaic works are based on emerging “trends” within internet culture, new social behaviours that evolved and developed entirely within the virtual space. Josh was most fascinated by the popularity of trending comment memes, which are found on social media platforms and web forums. By deciding to recreate these messages as mosaics the artist seeks isolate these brief and fleeting moments that we would otherwise scroll past, without giving them a second glance. In doing so the artist is reversing the transient nature of the social media feeds that we constantly refresh. e artist assumes the role of an archivist operating within the digital space, creating permanence in an otherwise temporal domain.

Josh Rowell

Josh Rowell (UK, 1990)

Josh Rowell is a British artist who focuses on technological upgrades that shape our contemporary lives, communicating our increasingly mediated human interactions within the confines of visual art. One of his more recognizable body of works is the series “Painting Language”, born out of a long-term interest in the functions of language and information, especially in light of a digital age. These paintings are coding systems for language, each one contains in them a body of text that can be taken from any source (book, magazine, script) and from any language. The artist then processes the information through a coding system of his own design, in which every square of four “dots” is one letter (being the top dots a unique colour combination identifying the letter, and the bottom dots decoding the quality of the letter, whether it be capital letter, lowercase).

The system operates through colour, sequence and pattern, and ultimately the language becomes transformed into the paintings. In each work there is the potential for it to be read, as it was in its original state, and, as it is in its altered state. Through making these works, Rowell wanted to explore what it means to reshape information, and think about alternative ways of seeing, or ‘reading’ the world around us. With language, spoken and written, as our primary means of communicating, it seemed a natural starting point for him to work with.