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Flat EarthFlowers, Kingsland Road, London, 13 Mar – 2 May 2020, https://www.flowersgallery.com/exhibitions/238-john-keane-flat-earth/;  
Flat Earth
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FLAT EARTH SERIES #5, 2019, Oil/reactive metallic paint, 190x170cm

FLAT EARTH

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire, Questions sur les Miracles


The collection of works in this show have been created over the last 2 years amid the context of turmoil and seismic shifts in the political landscape happening both domestically and globally. They invoke a profound irony - that the modern age of evidence based science and sophisticated technology has spawned a world wide web of conspiracy theory and alternative facts connecting a muddle of entrenched belief systems, stoked up by misinformation and cyber warfare, which have become ever more amplified in the echo chamber that is the internet. Keane has used the metaphor of Flat Earth theory by way of both illustrating and satirising world views which he finds both baffling and sinister. Some of the paintings depict the globe of planet Earth rendered in reactive metallic paint - a reference to the elements and minerals that form the substance of the Earth’s crust and from which the hardware of technology is fabricated. The unpredictable process of oxidation entailed in this medium suggests global fragility. But the paintings, despite presenting an illusion of roundness, are of course flat.

Elements and minerals necessary for technology and industry are obtained through mining, and the mutations in the international political landscape which has fast overtaken the world in recent years have been largely facilitated by a new and more sinister form of mining - data mining. Two paintings using the image of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg make ironic reference to this. His features are barely formed, almost teflon like in their bland and almost alien unaccountability. The California tech dream has adopted the persona of Big Brother.

The collusion of Facebook and more sinister organisations involved in harvesting personal data unwittingly shared by internet users has enabled highly efficient targeting of closely identified groups for the purpose of channelling information that seeks to influence the outcomes of democratic elections. There is good reason to believe that these methods have been instrumental in the election of a number of populist politicians across the globe, politicians who in many cases view their mandate as a chance to govern more in the style of despots than democrats. Keane’s series of Despocracy paintings addresses the idea of liberal democracy on the run through conflating the images of a number of national leaders (Putin, Trump, Erdogan, Duterte, Netanyahu, Orban etc.) into a single canvas.

European Canon obliquely takes on the very specific theme of Brexit in a single painting divided into two panels. The deep seated emotional drivers of each side of the Brexit debate are distilled into two images, a Napoleonic cannon captured in the battle of Waterloo which now resides at the Tower of London, and Beethoven’s piano, a gift to him from the English piano makers, Broadwood and Son. Both objects carry an emotional charge, but each contrasts profoundly with the other. The cannon invokes a history of war in Europe and an insular spirit of British defiance. The piano belonged to the artist who left an unparalleled canon of ground breaking music, and penned Ode to Joy, from the ninth symphony, a musical masterpiece calling for universal brotherhood which was adopted as the European anthem.

Again using reactive metallic paint, the Novichok paintings use the images in negative of the suspected poisoners of the Skripals and Dawn Sturgess in Salisbury in 2018. The revelation of the identities of the alleged murderers by investigative journalists Bellingcat became an information war of fact and anti-fact, and presented another high profile example of the clash of empiricism and denial according to political preference. This is another metaphor for seeing only what conveniently fits a belief system, and ignoring that which is inconvenient.

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Flat Earth Series #2 2019, oil/Reactive metallic paint/linen

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Blue Planet/MoonLanding/Flat Earth Series #8 2019, oil/linen 200 x 200cm

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Flat earth Series #7 2019, Reactive metallic paint/gold/diamonds/linen 200x240cm

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Who Shot the Plane Down/Flat earth #6 2019, Reactive metallic paint/metal/wood/gold/diamonds/linen 65 x 96cm

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Novichok 1 2019, Inkjet transfer/reactive metallic paint/linen 90 x 75cm

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Novichok 2 2019, Inkjet transfer/reactive metallic paint/linen 90 x 75cm

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Novichok 3 2019, Inkjet transfer/reactive metallic paint/linen 90 x 75cm

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Face 2019 oil/linen 135 x 95cm

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Face 2 2019 oil/linen 135 x 95cm

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European Canon (diptych) 2019 oil/linen 2 x 195 x 155cm

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Black Board (Theory of Anything) 2020 acrylic/wax crayon/linen 200 x 200cm

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Another Planet 2

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Another Planet 2

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Despocracy 1 2018 Oil/Linen 150 x 150cm

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Despocracy 2 2018 Oil/Linen 150 x 150cm

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Despocracy 3 2018 Oil/Linen 150 x 150cm

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Despocracy 4 2018 Oil/Linen 150 x 150cm

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SMEAR 2020 oil/linen 90x70cm

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ENTITLED NUMBER TWO oil/mixed media/linen 70x70cm