CONNERSMITH is pleased to provide a select view of John Stark’s “The March of the Demons into the City.” The vivid demons in Stark’s panoramic painting correspond to natural forces within a subversive model of cultural history.
Inspired by anthropological theories, the artist conceives of the foundation of civilization as “the march of the demons into the city.” Stark’s procession of demons figures the translation of technical inventions, informed by nature, from outlying villages into urban centers. These civilizing technologies include brewing, metallurgy and medicine, which were developed inconspicuously, over many centuries, primarily by women living in villages.
Women possessing special technical knowledge were often persecuted, as Stark reflects, “I allowed my imagination to create these spectral figures; they are demons and witches who symbolize the sacrificed feminine. Witches were scapegoats, who, feared as unclean and evil, were drowned, burned and hung.” The folkloric tradition of Walpurgis Night resonates with these practices in parts of Europe, where bonfires are still lit on the 30th of April to ward off evil spirits and witches.
Stark’s painting offers an alternative notion of “demons” and “witches,” with the collective civilizing process understood as being consonant with the individual process of self-realization. He explains, “‘The natural forces’, such as dreams, the unconscious and imagination, have been viewed in the past as dangerous or evil, but they are also the pure essence of creation. We all contain this potential, individually and collectively, it’s what connects us with every single breath, and it’s contained in every tiny brush stroke.”