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'Fresh Hell' by Jonah Pontzer at Rose Easton, London

Missing Time by Jonah Pontzer 

Stuck to me the second Mike said it A recollection of voids and winding pool covers, above ground, for most of the nineteen-nineties I welcomed the Emptiness, acknowledged the gravity Questioned the teachers preaching We can’t ever overcome it, so stepped Onto the surface, no tension beneath such truth to support me, and through that glass my body broke, heavy but not really – what are physics, btw? Fresh Hell. Fuck’s sake. My voice had changed, the words no longer sounded The helplessness, the dark, the tears Undetectable, indistinguishable, with My last breath not big enough to buoy and frozen little hands can’t displace cold water, the wickedness of night, The innumerable mournings dragging over the surface, pinning me under. 

Text by Joseph Yaeger 

In my estimation paintings tend to fall into two camps, that is the window and the mirror. Representational paintings, which lend themselves to all manner of para- sympathetic relationships, are usually and traditionally mirrors. We see Saint Sebastian filled with arrows and feel the wounds in our own body. He/she/they become I without apparent effort on the part of the viewer. 

It is, or feels, natural, automatic. 

Perhaps unexpectedly the rise of the painting as a window–contrary (or totally opposite, metaphor-wise) to how Alberti conceived of it–concurred with the Industrial Revolution. Abstraction, which is inaccessi- ble, generally speaking, to the sensuality of the body, insinuates the canvas as a window into the studio. You see through the painting to its creation. They are paintings of evidence, mark, trace. In this regard we see through the painting to the artist. And it should be no surprise the Americans–king individualists– elevated abstraction to a pedestal of Real Importance, where painting was, in a cynical sense, secondary to the mythic souls pulling such works from the aether. 

Coincidental then to find aether as the primary subject that Pontzer here is working from, and of. Likewise to find the mirror/window dichotomy inverted. These paintings are–insofar as we recognise ‘subjects’ within them (insects, arachnids, black holes, cat eyes, war machines)–windows, both in the literal sense of the transom installation as well as the metaphorical question posed in the layered complexity of their form: who made these? And how? And with what? And why? These are questions one poses at any exhibit, probably–notice how artists inspect others’ paintings like detectives–however in Fresh Hell the answers are not so easily located. The paintings reflect, they shape- shift. At angles a colour may flash holographically toward its complement, red to green, orange to blue, seemingly alive, very much like the light the paintings deftly depict. But if you the viewer have been placed below a transom, gazing up as if for transcendence, the suggestion is the door is or cannot or will not open. You, we, Pontzer, is trapped. Trapped upon the garish chroma of purple turf, the works trapped by faux knotty pine surfaces, in a simulation of the bedrooms and basements and dens every late-twentieth century American (this writer is one) can identify almost by smell, by the quality of cool, slightly damp or stale air, by the knowledge, without having ever explored the space, that somewhere in the dark behind a door is a mattress without sheets, or shelves filled with slapdash labeled Tupperware, or a chest freezer, casket-like, replete with Hungry Man dinners and a box or two of pick-your-region popsicles. The feeling elicited is unlike any other space possibly on earth and it is sorrowful. It is the space where the weird thing happened at that sleepover once, where memories for whatever reason return, and cycle. You are literally underground staring at wooden walls, not so unlike another, more permanent, eventual space. 

And it is here Pontzer has placed us. Or not here, but ‘here.’ This is a gallery. This is London. Meaning the ‘here’ is a psychological one, hence the purple turf in place of shag carpet. Hence the transom. Hence the paintings. 

29.6.23 — 16.9.23

Photo by Theo Christelis

Rose Easton

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