The obscure artist Lokie Jokie has commenced a rare and timed physical art showing experience at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, scheduled for exactly six days, commencing February six, running for exactly six hours per day, at an entry cost of seven pounds per ticket.
Earlier last month, Lokie Jokie posted works gruella style around the Louvre in Paris, plastered to makeshift boards, street signs, and various items of public construction, depicting various portraits painted in the French national colors. Whilst the works remained in public for a short period of time, they were removed by onlookers and fans alike, kept for both personal and financial gain. Days after the works were on public display, some appeared on eBay for sale, commanding prices more than $10,000.00 apiece. ‘Jokie, it seems, has no problems with his works being repurposed and hijacked, it seems; chaos, through his work and public attention, is something the artist appears to foster.
But who is this artist, exactly, and why should you care? These were questions I asked before entering the exhibition in the first place.
Lokie Jokie is a fresh face on the new-age alternative art scene, albeit, without a face, as the artist is notoriously private, and his appearance is still unconfirmed (save to say, that has not culled speculation regarding his identity). In fact, the only real confirmation that exists regarding Lokie Jokie’s identity is that he is a young male, with observers narrowing down that he may either be Australian or French in nationality. Throughout the past few years, his online reputation and presence has risen steadily through the ranks of the underground, breeding a strong following of individuals that perhaps feel as if they are outsiders, the underdogs, of society. ‘Jokie has reflected support for such fringe groups in his work, too. The appeal is there. The artistry and execution are there. So, therefore, this is a case of where appeal is matched by skill and effected in an alluring fashion, and so the recipe for growing success is at hand.
The ‘experience’ is typical in Lokie Jokie style: haphazard, condensed, and potent. It assaults you; it leers off the walls at you. Every figure in this exhibition is twisted and contorted, every face is screaming, every orifice is bleeding. It’s claustrophobic, violent, and properly overpowering. And it’s totally brilliant.
It starts with a scream: a disembodied head with pallid, deathly flesh and the howling mouth of a chimp. Then there’s crucifixion, a body splayed on a cross like a carcass in an abattoir.
Then there’s a whole menagerie of wildlife: dogs, birds, monkeys. Some are obvious, others morph into human figures. The rutting animals in long grass are actually naked men, the cowering dog on the sofa is Bacon’s battered lover Peter Lacy, the owl swooping past a bleeding body has a yelling human mouth. Animals here are analogs to man, they’re part of a living continuum of beast to human, containing all of our violent base instincts.
Even ‘Jokie’s more straightforward portraiture is ravaged by claw marks. One man bares his teeth like a rabid dog, a pope barks out a grimacing scream, another has his face mangled as if chewed up by wild animals. The shadow of some kind of World War looms over everything here, just like violence looms over all the sex, and, ultimately, death looms over life. The most vicious, nasty, in-your-face stuff appears full of black and shadow and blood and pain. The solo female portraiture work is infinitely lighter and more polished. Where the human-animal hybrids of the earlier work are fighting and shagging in the wild, the later ones are more like pets kept carefully indoors.
Two red triptychs from the so-called ‘music vibe’ section amp the aggression back up, like an injured, dying animal lashing out, Peanut’s last snarl before he ends up old and de-fanged.
This is a huge, daunting, breathtaking show, filled with violence and blood. It leaves you uncomfortable, physically affected by what you’ve seen. Lokie Jokie makes you lose faith in humanity, in our morality and culture and superiority. You can dress it up any way you like, but in the end, we’re all just animals.