MORAL CODES by Josh Rowell
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Curated by Celine Azem (a Syrian-Italian curator), MORAL CODES is a solo show by British artist Josh Rowell which explores the realms of ethics, communication, and our digital existence. With his famous series of works Painting Language, Virtually Fragile, and Mosaics on view, it offers visitors to ponder the moral codes which shape our society. The show is being held at the Firetti Contemporary gallery in Dubai and will run through the 7th of November, 2023.

At the centre of the exhibition is Painting Language, a series of acrylic paintings begotten by Rowell’s interest in the functions of language and information. Each work contains a text that can be taken from any source (a book, a magazine, or a script) and language. With the help of a colour coding system he has created by himself, the artist transforms the texts into paintings. In these artworks, he explores what it means to reshape information and thinks about other ways of seeing or “reading” the world surrounding us.

Josh Rowell, The Wind and the Sun, 2022. Acrylic on canvas.
24 2/5 × 18 1/10 in. | 62 × 46 cm.

Some works from the Painting Language collection are interpretations of timeless Aesop’s fables. Through them, Rowell reminds the viewers of the enduring importance of moral values in today’s world. Other paintings from the series focus on ancient mathematics and geometry.

In the exhibition, there is also Rowell’s Mosaics series on display. In these series, he investigates the internet and its evolving culture. It draws from popular comments and memes found on different social media platforms: the artist takes them and turns them into mosaics. The resulting pieces reflect how ephemeral the online phenomena are.

Josh Rowell, Really Dance, 2021. Unglazed Portuguese Ceramic, Grout, Wooden Substrate.
15 7/10 × 19 7/10 in. | 40 × 50 cm.

The visitors of MORAL CODES also have the opportunity to admire Virtually Fragile, a collection of paintings depicting images of broken smartphone screens. The series is Rowell’s comment on the chaos (which includes the potential total loss of information) we can find ourselves in if we become disconnected from the internet. Through these paintings, the artist aims to remind us that the digital world is not immortal and makes us contemplate our dependence on it.

About the artist

Josh Rowell (b. 1990, Kent, England, UK), a contemporary visual artist based in London (UK), obtained a 1st Class BFA with honours from Kingston Art School (UK) in 2013. In 2015, he received a 1st Class MFA in Fine Art with Distinction from the same school. In addition, the artist took a course in Art Criticism at Central Saint Martins College (London).

According to Rowell, in his work, he is mainly interested in “the role technology plays in reshaping the world around us”. Although his oeuvre comprises mostly paintings, his practice also involves sculpting, using mixed media, and creating light, video, and sound installations. Nevertheless, all of Rowell’s creations are underpinned by a coding system. “Everything can be reduced to a molecular binarism where all systems can be simplified to yes/no decisions,” the artist says.

Josh Rowell, Virtually Fragile #4, 2018. Acrylic on Wooden Panel.
39 2/5 × 70 9/10 in. | 100 × 180 cm.

Rowell has displayed his art pieces in multiple exhibitions, which include, for instance, Mythologies (Kopple Projects, Neon Gallery, London, 2021); NFT | IRL (Firetti Contemporary x Morrow Collective, Dubai, UAE); False Memory (Rugby Town Art Museum, Rugby, UK, 2020); Salon Acme (solo) (Daniel Benjamin Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico, 2020); Art Central Hong Kong (UNIX Gallery, Hong Kong, 2019); WOP Art (Atipografia, Lugano, Switzerland, 2019); Seattle Art Fair (solo) (UNIX Gallery, Seattle, USA, 2018); Asi Se Siente Mexico (Palacio Nacional de Guatemala, Guatemala, 2017); and many others.

The artist has been granted a number of awards, such as Dentons Art Prize 9.0 Spring/Summer 2020 (London, UK) (he became a joint winner) and VIA Arts Prize 2017 (London) (he was given a Public Choice Award). In 2017, Rowell undertook the Moyshen Gallery Summer Residency in San Miguel de Allende (Mexico). In 2016, he became a finalist in the Aesthetica Arts Prize (York, UK). It also should be mentioned that the artist was featured in Future Now: 100 Selected Contemporary International Artists from 2016, published by Aesthetica.

To learn more about MORAL CODES, please visit the exhibition’s official web page.

You might also be interested in attending The Scent of Memories by Emirati artist Najat Makki.

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