b. 1977, United Kingdom

William Monk Biography

New York-based British artist William Monk is known for his enigmatic works that capture scenes from a science-fiction-inspired universe, forming compelling yet evasive narratives around the apocalyptic, ritualistic, or hallucinatory imagination.

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He works in a range of media including oils, watercolours, collages and woodcut monotypes.

Early Years

Born in Kingston upon Thames, Monk gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Kingston University in 2000. From 2004 to 2006, he studied at De Ateliers in Amsterdam.

William Monk Artworks

William Monk's paintings are distinct for their radiant colours, curious detailing, and a simplified, almost childlike approach to composition. Information absorbed from news, magazines, and digital media may infiltrate Monk's images, but the artist steers his paintings away from the flatness of the digital through the dense, cumulative layering of paint.

Often revisiting motifs such as roads, volcanoes, clouds, and weather, the artist's tendency to work in series reflects the fixation of the dream-state or hallucinatory mind.

Furthur Planetarium!

Monk's major 2013 solo exhibition Furthur Planetarium! at GRIMM London brought together a series of large-scale oil paintings alongside watercolours and woodcut works. Its title, including the deliberate misspelling, originated from the cult science-fiction author and counterculture personality Ken Kesey, who roadtripped across America in the 1960s in a bus named 'Furthur'.

Monk's exhibition similarly explored a road trip of the psychedelic, apocalyptic variety—with nuclear mushroom clouds, nebulae, desolate highways, dense forest, and isolated cityscapes recurring throughout. Furthur!! (2013) presents a point-of-view image looking down a highway, with a giant, lurid mushroom cloud dominating the horizon; while the titular series Furthur Planetarium! (2013) comprises three identical paintings of an electric blue atmospheric cover arranged on separate encircling walls.

Monk's application of paint alternates between swathes of luminescent colour and obsessively executed stippling and mark-making, grounding his works with a physicality despite their fantastical imagery. Robert-Jan Muller writes for Artforum: 'This preoccupation with minute detail—each speck of colour sitting in its own place—gives everything portrayed in Monk's paintings, whether a telephone pole or a highway's dotted yellow line, a life of its own.'

Seven Leagues to Pompeii

For his exhibition Seven Leagues to Pompeii (2017) at GRIMM New York, Monk presented a suite of volcano paintings in various sizes, orbiting around the central Son (2017)—a round canvas painted golden yellow. Monk's volcanoes range from the unthreatening twee—seen in Untitled (And the Seventh Brings Return Study) (2017), a small, simplified rendering of an erupting volcano in muted pink pastels—to darker iterations, which see an eruption depicted as little more than a burst of fire against a peaked silhouette, as in Flame or Alone in the Clouds All Blue (both 2016).

Though ambiguous in meaning, Monk's repeated use of the motif of the volcano delivers an apocalyptic subtext while allowing for considered, evocative combinations of pattern, colour, and flattening of forms. Writing for GRIMM, critic Jay Merrick notes that the paintings included in Seven Leagues to Pompeii '... often radiate a sizzling colour voltage, like tapestries about to burst into flame; others have the organic, hyper close-up quality of an electron-micrograph; some are like freeze-frames in a pulsing mescaline vision ... Monk's ideal creative condition is an only-just-conscious awareness of the way painted form, colour, texture, and specific figurations develop into compositions that seem to be knowable or decodable, but are essentially fugitive'.

The Ferryman presented by Pace and GRIMM

Monk's return to round-format paintings was seen in The Ferryman (2022), a solo exhibition jointly presented by Pace Gallery and GRIMM New York across multiple spaces—one of which housed the 'Nova (deadeye)' series (2021-22).

Measuring over two metres in diameter, Nova (deadeye I) resembles a giant eyeball, with an enlarged dark pupil framed by a delicate fleshy pink border that fades into white at the canvas edge. Executed with characteristic attention to detail—with vein-like lines radiating outward, and mottled brushwork blending dark indigos and violets to give the pupil an expansive sense of depth—Nova offers a substitute portal to an alternate universe. This is emphasised by their experimental installation: produced in near-identical multiples, the 'Nova' paintings hang suspended in a row from the ceiling.

Awards and Accolades

In 2009, Monk was awarded the Jerwood Contemporary Painters Prize. In 2005, he received the Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst (Royal Award for Painting) while studying in the Netherlands.

Exhibitions

Monk has presented in solo and group exhibitions internationally since the early 2000s.

Solo exhibitions include The Ferryman, Pace and GRIMM, New York (2022); Point Datum, Pace, Hong Kong (2020); Mount Atom, GRIMM, Amsterdam (2020); Untitled (zip) II–VII, Pace (online exhibition) (2020); A Fool through the Cloud, Pace, London (2019); Seven Leages to Pompeii, GRIMM, New York (2017); The Cloud is Growing in the Trees, Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2015); William Monk, James Cohan Gallery, New York (2014).

Group exhibitions include Im Frage, Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen (2020); Away in the Hill, GRIMM, New York (2019); Common Ground, AkzoNobel Art Foundation, Amsterdam (2018); Miniatuur Museum, Wonderkamers, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague (2017); Culture of Colors, AkzoNobel Art Foundation (2016); The Hidden Picture, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen (2015).

Collections

Monk's works are held in collections worldwide, including in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague; AkzoNobel Foundation, Amsterdam; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden; ING Art Collection, Amsterdam; and The Roberts Institute of Art, London.

Website and Instagram

William Monk's website can be found here, and his Instagram can be found here.

Misong Kim | Ocula | 2022

William Monk Featured Artworks

East of Nowhere by William Monk contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
William Monk East of Nowhere, 2021–2022 Oil on canvas
210 x 315 cm
Pace Gallery
The Ferryman III by William Monk contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
William Monk The Ferryman III, 2021–2022 Oil on canvas
220 x 330 cm
Pace Gallery
Son (return III) by William Monk contemporary artwork painting
William Monk Son (return III), 2021–2022 Oil on canvas
Pace Gallery
Nova (deadeye I) by William Monk contemporary artwork painting
William Monk Nova (deadeye I), 2021–2022 Oil on canvas
Pace Gallery
Furthur, furthur, furthur, furthur, furthur! by William Monk contemporary artwork painting
William Monk Furthur, furthur, furthur, furthur, furthur!, 2018 Oil on canvas
35.6 x 55.9 x 4.4 cm
Pace Gallery

William Monk Recent Exhibitions

William Monk Represented By

Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in 540 West 25th Street, New York, USA Pace Gallery Beijing, East Hampton, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palm Beach, Palo Alto, Seoul
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