Art in the Age of Anxiety, 2020

Art in the Age of Anxiety, 2020
Installation view: Sharjah Art Foundation
Photo: Danko Stjepanovic


Joshua Nathanson’s work is inspired by the frenetic crowds of James Ensor, the vibrant colour combinations of Henri Matisse, the cartoonish abjection of Philip Guston and the backlit aesthetics of computer drawing software. Nathanson’s process consists of creating a digital painting using an iPad and a digital pen and then translating this painting with airbrushing, painting and oil sticks into a canvas that mimics the digital texture. His work is derived from his obsession with his laced-with-anxiety manic relationship with the screen. A video game world becomes more and more lifelike, and a natural world begins to take on the characteristics of the digital, infused with a sort of nervous noise. Nathanson brings that state of slipping between the virtual and the real, with the strange fluctuation between these different states, into his work.

Wait (2015) depicts people gathered on the beach in the middle of a summer day. The work represents a heightened feeling of being alive and exposed to the elements, an exposure that ignites anxiety about not living life to its fullest or a fear of dissolving into the surroundings. Taking a moment to step back, self-reflect and evaluate, a person at the beach is confronted with the sun as it reaches its apex and stops to think: ‘Wait…’ is a thought meant to regain composure and guard against a slow melt into the sandy haze.

The Kettle (2019) is a painting of an anthropomorphised tea kettle that shakes and sputters as it boils and threatens to explode. Surrounded by fire, water and clouds of steam, a symphony of elemental exchanges takes place. The painting is a visual metaphor of a love scene, an internal battle between energy, joy and anxiety, frenzy bordering on a psychedelic state. Like Wait, this work depicts states of intensity as they near a fever pitch.

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