The Alan Cristea Gallery will stage an exhibition of new works, Gordon Cheung: The Light that Burns Twice as Bright, from 14 September to 5 October 2011.
Cheung's multi-media artistic vision is fuelled by an anxious reflection on the current state of affairs in capitalist societies. He invokes prophetic visions of the impending end of our civilization: epic, sublime but terrifying revelations of post-apocalyptic landscapes, set against the backdrop of stock listings collage. He cross-references the cultural, mythological, political, religious and artistic to capture the 'desert of the real': a hyper-real cyberscape of toxic undertones and noxious glows, complete with rampaging fauna, paranoiac hallucinations of collapsing architecture and techno-psychedelic biblical apparitions. His oeuvre can be placed within the long tradition of imagining the end of the world, displaying kinship with the Romantic landscapes of John Martin and Caspar David Friedrich.
Cheung begins a painting by laying out a background of collaged sheets from the Financial Times. Over this base, he juxtaposes layers of digital printing, ink, oil and acrylic paint. His imagery is lifted from the internet; current affairs, in particular news items surrounding the credit crisis, the 'war on terror' and environmental disasters provide much of the raw material for his work. Although the small print of stock market listings is at times barely visible, covered as it is by the heavy impasto that characterises recent paintings, the market is omnipresent in the work. But the notion of 'financial capitalism" does not interest Cheung as much as that of "virtual capitalism", of speculative financial transactions disconnected from the sphere of material production and physical reality. The fantasy of undoing and exposing the spectacle is also a recurring theme in Philip K. Dick's literature. His novel Do androids dream of electric sheep? was adapted for the cinema in 1982 by Ridley Scott in the sci-fi cult movie Blade Runner, a major source of inspiration for Cheung in the making of The Light that Burns Twice as Bright.
The focal point of the exhibition are four large paintings completed in 2011, measuring 150 x 200 cm, including Still Life, Black Sun, The Highway and Trembling Sunrise, shown alongside a series of smaller paintings, including still lives, which stem from the larger works.
"The Disasters of Terror is a series of small pyrographic laser etchings and Light them all up is based on a still from wikileaks 'collateral murder', the 'crazy horse' apache helicopter that killed a group of innocents including two Reuters journalists," says Cheung. "It is the moment in between life and death where the image of destruction is created by the act of destruction".
A number of works by Cheung are currently showing alongside those of John Martin (1789-1854) at the Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery, until 20 September (after which the John Martin show will transfer directly to Tate Britain, from 21 September until 15 January 2012).