12 lightboxes in 3 stacks, aluminium, 2 pac enamel spray paint, acrylic, vinyl faces, 12 screenprinted, hand stitched banners, water-based printing ink, cotton, linen, damask and towelling
stacks: each 400cm approx.
lightboxes: each between 60 × 40 × 20cm and 200 × 100 × 90cm
banners: each between 300 × 100cm and 200 × 120cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the Melbourne Art Foundation (Melbourne Art Foundation Commission 2010) and part purchase supported by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
In Stacks On, Jon Campbell stacks glowing lightboxes of different shapes and sizes on top of one another in an installation that captures the political and cultural milieu of the inner city though its slogans, slang and lingo. Usually the domain of advertising and brand awareness, Campbell takes lightboxes from their customary location in the street, bus shelter and milk bar and re-orients them towards a personal archive of recollections, communicating the diverse voices and cultural landscape of his upbringing through its distinctive typography, words and phrases.
Interspersed between the towering lightbox stacks are screenprinted banners hanging from the ceiling. Like the lightboxes, they declare – in a phrase or a single word – their allegiance to the memory of inner-city suburbs. The lightbox inscribed with ‘Footscray Halal meats 100%’ and the banner declaring ‘Franco Cozzo’ (a well-known Melbourne furniture retailer) refer to the multicultural character of places like Footscray and Brunswick, now an important part of their sense of place. Within this melting pot of references are words of distinctly Australian flavor, like ‘snot block’ and ‘schnitz and titz.’ These unique colloquialisms – one an unflattering description of the singular Australian delicacy, the vanilla slice (a solid block of custard held between two layers of pastry) the other shorthand for the food and service on offer at a particular kind of Australian pub – belong to an informal language of suburban working class masculinity.
Posters for 1970s proto-punk bands like Radio Birdman and The Saints are enlarged as vivid screenprints by Campbell and hung alongside snippets of overheard conversations – “it’s a world full of lying bastards” – with slogans from the proposed damming of the Franklin River in the 1980s and the suggested closure of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in 2010. These stacked and floating slabs of text and slang, torn from times and places familiar to the artist, recall the voices, influences and memories experienced in the streets of urban Australia, creating a kind of unofficial history of its vernacular expression.
My art and politics are influenced by where I grew up. I’ve always been mostly interested in things around me, the local, Australiana, language and rock n roll. I try to represent the overlooked and undervalued. It’s a questioning and celebration of who we are, constructed with a lo-fi aesthetic.
Jon Campbell quoted by Lucy Feagins, “Jon Campbell”, The Design Files, 2014 http://thedesignfiles.net/2014/10/jon-campbell/ (accessed 3 August 2017)
Born 1961, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lives and works Footscray, Victoria.
With a focus on text based works, Jon Campbell’s recent work carefully constructs imagery with abstracted and geometric elements. Meaning is created in the negative spaces, hiding words and phrases within the surface image. Campbell implements this methodology to explore the colloquial language and culture of contemporary society, he also engages with the viewer as a critical part of the work itself as they decipher the text.
Campbell’s solo exhibitions include Absolutely Disgusting, Darren Knight Gallery at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne (2016); Art Basel Hong Kong, Discoveries Section, with Darren Knight Gallery, Hong Kong (2015); Ten years of neon, KALIMANRAWLINS, Melbourne (2013); Just Sing What You Feel, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2012); Stacks on 2010, Melbourne Art Foundation Artist Commission (2010); $23,000,000, Uplands Gallery, Melbourne (2008) yeah yeah yeah, The Physics Room, Christchurch, New Zealand (2007); Greatest Hits Vol.1, CSA Gallery, Australian National University School of Art, Canberra (2002).
Group exhibitions include Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; The End of Time. The Beginning of Time, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2017); I heart rock (rock is the total work of art), Arts Project Australia, Melbourne (2016); Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2016); it’s gonna take a lotta love, Franklin Street Works, Stamford, US (2015); Art Tram, Melbourne International Festival, Melbourne; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013); Basil Sellers Art Prize, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne (2012)
Campbell’s work is held in a number of Australian collections including Artbank Australia, Sydney; Deakin University, Melbourne; Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria; La Trobe University, Melbourne; The Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne; Victoria University, Melbourne.