If you can’t get enough of the instantly recognisable black humour and deeply unsettling imagery of the renowned Joan Cornellà, then roll your sleeves up for a new exhibition this spring.
I’m Good Thanks at the Public Gallery in London invites us to peer into the Catalan artist’s dystopic vision of contemporary life. Paintings line the walls, surrounding a central sculpture – the artist’s trademark suited character, hanging from a noose and smiling psychopathically whilst posing for a selfie.
Each work holds a mirror up to the depraved nature of society; confronting everything from our unnatural connection to social media and masturbatory selfie culture to political topics such as abortion, addiction and gender issues – no subject is off limits.
Of course, at first glance, Cornellà’s work seems lighthearted and playful, his figures share a generic blank smile and sickly sweet colour palette, reminiscent of 1950’s advertising or airline safety pamphlets. Cornellà then twists these saccharine settings to dissect modern culture, projecting them to the darkest, most cynical conclusion. While some are affronted by his work, many connect over it, laughing whilst simultaneously feeling bad for even laughing.
“I think we all laugh at misery,” says Cornellà. “We must start from the idea that when we laugh, we laugh at someone or something. With empathy or not, there is always some degree of cruelty. In spite of that, I am aware that if one of my cartoons happened in real life I would not laugh at all.”
Satire has long been one of humanity’s rare beacons of introspection. Through simplistic visual language, Cornellà satirises the sinister and often bleak side of humanity within a myriad of bizarre and surreal scenarios. Despite suffering gunshot wounds, losing limbs and experiencing gruesome accidents with alarming regularity, the characters in Cornellà’s world keep on smiling.
In sync with the growing feeling that the world is sinking further into depraved absurdity, Cornellà sheds some light onto ourselves, presenting human nature in his notoriously dark and disquieting manner.
I’m Good Thanks at London’s Public Gallery runs from 3 April until 4 May 2019. Or you can join Joan Cornellà’s seven million followers on Instagram.