Utopian archetypes appear within many cultures, societies and religions coexisting and immortalized in art and prose. They resurge with special vitality in difficult and critical times. In Utopia, the projection of the myth could depict an idyllic remote past or unspoiled future, contained within a distant and purely fictional place. The communal belief offers that, at some point in the future, in space and time, perhaps even beyond death, there must exist the possibility of living happily.
Utopian ideals frequently associate Arcadian ideals of splendor – human existence alongside pastoral beauty or an un-spoilt landscape. In the Utopia series, JP Willis has transformed these associated concepts and landscapes into a dichotomy. Though every image presented in this series displays a scene of panoramic glory there is something unnerving, something not quite right. Within the landscapes a piece of modern military hardware– a fighter jet, bomber, or drone – is discreetly placed. Though not recognized as a direct threat, the planes, displaying no insignia or any military markings, still seem misplaced. Adding to an anxiety surrounding the images they are slightly blurred, a little out of focus as if taken in a hurry or from a hiding place. They make one wonder …what is really happening here? Within the beauty, a brooding memento mori. Are these images of a utopian neverland or of something ominous?
Interpretation of these new works could be perceived as part of the classical Utopian tradition. While running parallel to the ascetic discipline of perfecting ones character by focusing the attention towards virtue. Looking up to the heavens, cultivating earthly detachment and contemplating immortality of the soul.
The contrast between beauty and deadliness has been central to JP Willis’s work for over a decade. These themes manifest repeatedly across various mediums that including artists’ books, works on canvas, prints on paper and glass as well as neon artworks. They all overlay familiar images of weapons of war that entwine with the apparent beauties of nature.
© 2016 JP Willis