Greg Holden Regan‘s paintings emerge out of struggle, not a political one but rather his pictures seek to articulate our desire to escape the totality of consumer culture and find something else, something other, something outside capitalism’s pressing need to consume and re-appropriate everything around it in the pursuit of profit.
This dynamic is played out on large canvases, his pictures straddling the border of representation and abstraction, his use of a street art aesthetic combined with a painterly technique giving a wider breadth to the conversation he wants to have with us; his questions, his opinions. The dilemma we all face in a material world that values objects and money above relationships between people and the world around us.
A big statement. Perhaps there is too much in that. Perhaps I’m seeing his work through the prism of a recent seminar I went to in which John Holloway was speaking about capitalism. Yes that might be it but we all perceive the world around us differently and after reading Regan’s statement on his series, ‘Robots, Tumbleweeds and Shopping Carts’ it was evident that his concerns were centred around social injustice, consumerism and above all humanity and the journey we are taking. As he says himself:
It dawned on me that when I see these carts, I create a story about how the shopping cart arrived in its resting place, who may have been pushing it and for what reason. Most of the time these stories have an undertone of hardship and poverty.
I began painting pictures of shopping carts coupled with the word “poverty”. Through the process of making these paintings, the image of the shopping cart began to develop. It became a symbol not just for poverty, but also for prosperity, emptiness and consumption as a whole. The more I thought about shopping carts, the more I thought of how prevalent they are in our culture. Shopping carts can represent consumption as necessity, over-consumption, as well as desperation and lack.
I wanted to explore how we can consume enough to survive without consuming too much. These are the layers of meaning behind the word “Eat”, which has made it’s way into this series. The idea of “Eat” as the act of consumption is a sort of point of attack for nourishment on a physical, cultural, and spiritual level; again exploring the idea of how to get what you need without taking or consuming too much.
This need to explore the significance of these symbols of injustice, poverty and the detritus left behind in our individualistic pursuit of material wealth led him to look at the future, to the replacement of humans by robots, to see a world in which function becomes ubiquitous, when our very being is reduced to labour. Disconnected from our soul, our questioning, our wonder of the magnificence of the world around us.
These are all fundamental questions that are becoming more critical as we move through the 21st Century. Through a time of great flux when technology is seen as omnipotent, when the internet of things is becoming a reality without any questioning of the implications of its application. This sense that we are destroying ourselves in pursuit of material gain is a topic on the tips of many tongues but has yet to express itself in the wider artistic community. It is time it was and Regan is one such artist. His use of pop cultural motifs, spray paint and modernist abstraction giving an artistic voice to this need to discuss, to question, to critique.