Celebrated British artist John Kirby is known for his paintings of enigmatic and disquieting narrative scenes, tackling the complexities of identity, gender and sexuality. This solo exhibition brings together new and recent works alongside selected paintings from the past two decades, focusing on the conversation between past and present portrayed by his enduring cast of characters.
Influenced by religious iconography, Kirby stages his figures in strange, or dreamlike settings. His characters depict the struggles and anxieties of childhood and adolescence, adopting ambiguous or coded gestures of play and dressing up, and hinting at charged, psychic dramas below the surface of the everyday.
The title of the exhibition, All Passion Spent, is taken from Milton's dramatic poem or ‘closet drama’, Samson Agonistes. Kirby’s appropriation reflects the private search of his characters for ‘calm of mind’ following internal struggles.
Kirby’s doll-like figures have been described as sublimated self-portraits, in which the themes of isolation or loneliness, and the repression of emotion are explored through symbolic narratives. Gender is represented as both fluid and equivocal, where boys and young men explore gendered motifs such as the doll’s house, black-tie suit, or bridal gown.
Selected exhibited works below.