However, for Semple’s new show, this escapism has been replaced with a focus on anxiety; taking our feet back to the ground and re-rooting them in a world where widespread anxiousness, according to the artist, has endemic levels.
“The world’s very different for us than it was for our parents’ generation”, says Semple.
“Our phones are essentially media devices and the level of bombardment with information and images is at such a pace that we don’t really have time to digest it.”
He adds: “We have been spoon-fed the concept that we are not enough. We have spent our youth watching a parade of ‘what we could have won’ and now we are at a total loss as to who we even are.”
For his new show, Anxiety Generation, Semple addresses these questions through 22 new paintings.
The works show a return to his magpie-like assimilation of textual, music, film and celebrity reference points, placing familiar tropes from popular culture into new configurations that align them with violence and fear.
These narratives look to reflect the sensationalist voices of the media, according to Semple.
He says: “We require so much to be entertained or moved – we need things to be insanely weird, we’re almost craving horror.
“In the show there are works on paper inspired by grindhouse cinema posters, which would all say ‘this’ll be the most shocking thing you’ve ever seen’ – really hyping the horror.”
This series of works takes the form of a set of small canvases entitled Killing Me Softly, with each image based on a still from 1970s Italian “grindhouse” horror films. These images are often layered with sugary, throwaway pop lyrics from the 90s, by bands like the Spice Girls.
Semple says: “The interesting thing is that when you move those images from a film and put it on the wall of gallery it’s shocking again. If you see it on YouTube, it’s kitsch.”
These rather different reference points underscore the show’s invitation for us to look at how this ‘anxiety generation’ is trapped between two sensibilities: apathy, and an all-pervading sense of fear.
Semple says: “My generation is the fulcrum for decades of anxiety and we have been made so inert and fearful that we dare not even face it to understand what it is.”
Anxiety Generation runs from 12 November – 7 December at Delahunty, 21 Bruton Street, London W1J 6QD