I miss museums. It’s only logical considering weekly visits to art exhibitions were practically an obligatory routine, pre-pandemic. So, when there is a global health crisis that shuts down every cultural institution in your area for an undisclosed amount of time, it’s going to hurt. But there is a loophole: galleries. Technically, galleries are commercial enterprises, so under current law in France, they are allowed to remain open. While the size and discourse at galleries are typically less robust than traditional museums, they still can offer opportunities to discover some pertinent work. My most recent visit was to Galerie RX, a contemporary art space in le Marais.
And that is where I discovered the pop-up art exhibition of LokieJokie.
Galerie RX focuses on contemporary art. They consider their space to be a site of experimentation that encourages innovative approaches to the visual arts. Whilst I thought, then, that I knew what to expect, the matter of fact is, I truly did not. Upon entering the refined space, I was immediately hit with a Monalisa sized portrait of a woman, holding her own head, surrounded by surrealist demons who danced and played around her seated corpse-body. Morbid, but beautifully and delicately painted. Oil on linen, with some intricate use of inks, too.
As I progressed through the gallery, I came across more works by this LokieJokie, most of which was a blend of surrealism and post-modernism, some pieces having a hint of brutalism, too-boot. Undeniably unique, frantic, chaotic, and yet, delicate. LokieJokie combines a myriad of different artistic styles and themes into his (or her?) pieces that is unlike anything you are likely to come across and delivers such a blend in an exceptionally soft manner. You can feel their deliberate carefulness and precision in each stroke, even if at first some pieces and their details appear chaotic and random – do not be fooled, they are most certainly not. Each line, each swoosh, is a deliberate and gentle touch.
Which brought me immediately to wondering: who is LokieJokie? Are they male, female? How do they identify? Where are they from? Where did they grow up? Who are they, exactly? Nothing. Not a sliver of information can be found, and according to the Curator for this beautiful space in le Marais, that is as intentional as the kindness in the strokes in the work. And there is a kindness, a gentleness, a soft touch – delicateness – to the work of LokieJokie, behind the obvious aggressiveness. Two sides to a coin, if you will. Clearly, the artist here is a complex individual. Clearly, they are a deep thinker. That much is obvious, from what can be gathered from the intricate works on hand. One piece, in particular, was a simple portrait of a woman, titled ‘Pumpkin’, with a music track ever so faintly being played behind the hanging work. A music track composed, recorded, and produced, by LokieJokie. It is eery, soft, calming music, with beautiful electronic and string arrangements; a hybrid mix of period-style writing and modern trap-house. A soothing vocal hook and melody play. The song in itself is a masterwork. But here, looking at ‘Pumpkin’, the song is designed to pull you into her gaze. The longer you look at the portrait, the longer your subconscious has time to take in the music faintly playing in the background, and the further down this weird, crazy rabbit hole you go, whilst you stare into the portrait’s eyes, quickly eating time away from your day. I found myself staring at the portrait for over ten minutes, without noticing. That was the most profound, and odd, moment of my experience here, at Galerie RX. How easily, how stealthily, I was drawn into such a simple piece of work; how my two senses, sight, and hearing, were quickly and covertly hijacked – me being an unwitting victim, if you will – of the magic at hand. Never has this happened to me before, and I suspect, may never happen again.
Whilst the work of LokieJokie is certainly interesting, creative, and unique, it leaves one feeling a tinge of sadness. There is a theme of emptiness in all the pieces on display at the gallery, and you cannot help but feel like some are a silent cry out for help. No matter how good an artist may be, if you leave experiencing their work with a heavier heart than what you walked in with, does that not go against the ethos of what good art really is? Art, for the most part, should make you feel emotion – all kinds – but at the end of the day, you want to feel satisfied, happy. At least, I do. LokieJokie’s work does not leave me satisfied – I want to know more about this artist, their works – it leaves me hungry. LokieJokie’s work does not leave me happy – I feel my stomach and heart (or both) sink – I feel sad for the artist, and that is not a great feeling at all.
As mixed as the pieces on display were, that is also the feeling I am left with. And that is my initial take on one of the most unique and clandestine visual artists I have ever come across.