Lisson Gallery

The British artist Jonathan Monk replays, recasts and re-examines seminal works of Conceptual and Minimal art by variously witty, ingenious and irreverent means. 

What is Seen is Described, What is Described is Seen (Rothko) I & II examines two descriptive languages – the visual and the linguistic. Monk sent postcards of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko to the artists Art & Language, asking them to provide a rational and uninflected description of the images. These straightforward descriptions were then given to a commercial sign painter in order to turn the text back into image.

Speaking in 2009, he said, "Appropriation is something I have used or worked with in my art since starting art school in 1987. At this time (and still now) I realised that being original was almost impossible, so I tried using what was already available as source material for my own work." Through wall paintings, monochromes, ephemeral sculpture and photography he reflects on the tendency of contemporary art to devour references, simultaneously paying homage to figures such as Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman and Lawrence Weiner, while demystifying the creative process. 

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