Johnny Romeo – Nothing is Real
Hosted By 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace
May 29th - August 10th, 2021
Internationally acclaimed Australian Pop painter Johnny Romeo makes his thrilling return to the Gold Coast with his latest mini-exhibition, Nothing Is Real. Teaming up with 19 Karen Gallery, Romeo has put together a vibrantly psychedelic Special Release of four portraits that pay homage to Pop culture’s ultimate Fab Four, the Beatles. Brimming with bold absurdist imagery and vivaciously hallucinatory colours, the latest series from Australia’s King of Pop puts a refreshingly new spin on his inimitable Kitsch Pop style that masterfully fuses the symbolism of Dutch Golden age Vanitas still life paintings with the LSD-laced trippiness of Surrealism and the slickness of Pop Art. Nothing Is Real is a rollicking romp through the psychedelic world of Beatlemania that invites the audience to question reality and look beyond the physical world of the everyday.
Johnny states, ‘I’ve been a Beatles fan for as long as I can remember. Recently, I’ve found myself being particularly drawn to the psychedelic period of the Beatles in their late career, between 1966 and 1969. There’s something about their approach to psychedelia and pop, and the way they sought to tap into their subconscious through music that really resonates with my own practice as an artist who creates Pop Art with a distinctly Surrealist edge. Around this time, I also became very intrigued by Vanitas paintings, a style of still life that was popularised by Dutch Golden Age painters such as Pieter Claesz. Objects such as breakfast dishes and table settings take on profound meanings beyond their everyday uses, acting as symbolic reminders of people’s mortality and the value of life. This is a sentiment I think we have all related to some point during this past year living under a pandemic. In Nothing Is Real, I wanted to put my own spin on classic Vanitas works by creating still lifes for the postmodern Pop Age, works that were less concerned with religious atonement and more about looking beyond our common, everyday reality. More notably, I wanted to tap into the allegorical qualities of Vanitas paintings to create portraits that told a story – that gave viewers an insight into a day in the life of some of the Beatles most beloved songs. My portraits of George, Paul, Ringo and John are therefore rich with symbolism adopted from Vanitas paintings and Surrealism that evokes the fixation on dreams and the psychedelic pursuit for self-realisation that characterised classic Beatles cuts such as ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.’