Justin Bower paints his subjects as de-stabilized, fractured post-humans in a nexus of interlocking spatial systems. His paintings problematize how we define ourselves in this digital and virtual age while suggesting the impossibility of grasping such a slippery notion.
The ongoing decoding of the human body, a formula to each individual’s genome, confronts us with a radical question of “What are we? Am I a code that can be reduced and multiplied infinitely?” Bower’s paintings begin to open a dialogue to this destabilizing effect/trauma technology has on the individual that has infected the daily lives of contemporary man. He shows this destabilization through the doubling of features – multiple eyes, spliced noses, melting mouths – and the whiplash motion invoked in his Abstract Expressionist process.
Much like Francis Bacon and Da Vinci of generations past, Bower uses paint as an instrument of dissection and inquiry. Flesh acts as a complex veneer, functioning as a biological boundary from externalized technologies; all the while the viewer realizes that the same externalized technologies are always already inside the subject. This ultimately creates an open system, an incomplete subject becoming and degrading, not knowing where the outside starts and the internal ends. The boundaries of the traditional subject are now leaking in Bower’s concept.
His paintings reflect the increasing “control society” that we find ourselves in. By placing his turbulent subjects in an Op Art context, the familiar repeating patterns that were used to engage the eye in the 60’s, are now being deployed to act as a type of “code” permeating and invading the body/subject. Bower wants to “have the viewer feel the instability his subjects reflect”, by playing on the non-fixed features of the face and the hallucinatory effects of the Op Art, so as to engage the viewer and perhaps awaken them from a techno-slumber.
In the end, Bower’s subjects are an inquiry into the nature of autonomy in the modern subject. Is “free will” minimized in a society that deploys technology in an effort for more and more control over the individual? Have we ever really had it to begin with? Bower paints his subjects as an ontological problem, and as such, he sees…”the study of subjectivity functions best under the threat of vanishing”.