Nov 28 — Dec 6, 2021

Burn Baby Burn

Lemon’s debut exhibition at OIGALL PROJECTS chooses to problematize the artist’s relationship with religion. Contemporary Australia has seen an increased fascination in pentecostal values. Pentecostalism can be defined as Christian movements emphasizing baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by ‘speaking in tongues’: prophecy, healing, and exorcism. This curiosity could be driven by the visibility of major political figures such as Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the rise of Hillsong church and famous pentecostal believers (Kanye, anyone?). The PM does not shy away from making public his beliefs, his family’s and even his political allies' commitment to the faith. At times integrating public policy with religious rhetoric; through this pushing the boundaries of democracy, secular society and faith - it's beginning to look a lot like shady fundamentalism.

Faith in all its multiplicity has also weaved its way into James Lemon’s life. The artist was raised in a Pentecostal household; however unlike the aforementioned examples; Lemon does not approach the religion from a fundamentalist perspective, perhaps in complete opposition to this, he actively unpacks and problematizes what the faith has meant for him, personally. Lemon understands that his childhood has had an impact upon him (Freud, anyone?) In this vein, Lemon’s debut exhibition at Oigall Projects chooses to problematise the artist’s relationship with religion; especially from the perspective of a Queer vernacular. He deep dives; explores it; pulls it apart; puts it back
together again; he, well, ah, cannibalises it.

Visually, this body of work by Lemon is loaded with imagery placed in concert with playful gestural, painterly layering and chunky, angular forms underscored by some of the material choices made byLemon. The artist's hand is present and with it; the explorative relationship between capitalist decadence, the limits of the ecosphere and fundamentalist Christian ideologies. This is seen through the cannibalistic use of kiln bricks as a material, both figurative creatures and a vessel form referencing Christian iconography; think the garden of Eden, serpents, crucifixes, tower of babel. He engages with the idea of the taboo in each of these contexts; perhaps raising questions of how fundamentalism may look in other, less obvious contexts. What Lemon does best though is to conceptually blend all of this thinking up for us into a morally ambiguous cocktail for us to ponder and sip away at, slowly, to come to our own conclusion.

-Tess Maunder