Reg Mombassa: Simplisticism III – Shadowland

Reg Mombassa's current show with Rogue Pop-up Gallery, in Redfern, offers admonitions and incisive critique clothed in a brash, energetic aesthetic scheme.

The text-based work which operates as a manifesto for Mombassa’s current show declares that ‘Simplisticism is a new global art movement, religion, and political party. I am the leader of this movement and to date the sole member. The people that join the movement will be called Simplistics, or, for short, Simpletons.’ The self-knowing irony, here, is important: Mombassa’s is work which uses its own instantly recognisable, loud, and punchy visual vocabulary to resist the social structures it critiques, while never taking itself so seriously as to become sanctimonious.

Much of Mombassa’s critique is aimed at what he sees to be the non-wisdom of technological developments including artificial intelligence, smart devices, and surveillance capitalism. As he takes it, the surveillance we are subjected to in the hands of our devices enables not only insipid personalised marketing, but a more serious kind of political control for those who access and use our data.

Technological developments also flatten our affective lives, for Mombassa, as figured through the robots which populate his recent pictures. The hyper-expressive features of the robotic figures – wide eyes, bared teeth – and expressionistic gestures, including outstretched limbs and hair-like wiring on the heads which seems to express some sort of tension, nevertheless feel somewhat lifeless, unbelievable in their hyped-up histrionics. As such, one forewarning of Mombassa’s colourific style, with its hints of narrative, might then be against the advance of technological ‘development’ over what makes us human, together.

The landscape, too, is flattened in these works. Hills are packed into a tight horizon in many of Mombassa’s landscapes, and the sky darkened and intensified in its colour. The landscape seems to press down on us, that is, while pieces of its hills rupture into small, inexplicable breaks, and branches and limbs of trees harden into lifelessness. So too, then, is there an ecological warning contained within the work – yet one which doesn’t fully depart from the absurd, the surreal, and the brash confidence of a hand which never, truly, presumes itself to be any more the vessel of wisdom than the forms it critiques.

Simplisticism III – Shadowland
5 May – 6 June 2021
Rogue Pop-up Gallery, Sydney

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