John Godfrey is a Canadian interdisciplinary artist who utilizes references from pop culture, advertising and entertainment to playfully subvert, question and repurpose the conflicting messages these present-day icons disseminate across generations. As part of his multifaceted practice which resides at the intersection between digital art, illustration and object-based works, Godfrey alternates recognizable imagery from the film industry or product commercials with texts that deliver ironic commentaries imbued with the artist’s wry sense of humor. In this way, Godfrey’s work speaks to the legacy of pop art and other contemporary artists who parodied urban life, but is also accompanied by a conceptual vein he infuses with an irreverent vibe. Witty collectible figures, limited-edition prints of Polish-inspired movie posters, intervened ads, digital animations, murals, and photographic collages, all form part of the alternate reality the artist builds by reinterpreting a medium everyone is familiar with due to the indisputable reach of mass media.
For years the niche of entertainment advertising has offered Godfrey, who studied Graphic Design and started his boutique design firm in 2011, an arena for experimentation. In his advertisement works for the film sector, John has developed a distinctively bold style garnering industry recognition. However, his artistic practice has also allowed him to re-analyze the landscape of advertising and pop culture uncovering how they fit into the larger world and society by combining symbols and messages with a street art aesthetic. The artist’s approach aligns with the visual strategy known as subvertising, which refers to altering original advertising images to grant them a sarcastic meaning, but, at the same time, relates to the work of influential artists like Ed Ruscha who have skillfully exploited the tension between quotidian images, texts, and typography. Importantly, next to these mechanisms, Godfrey incorporates subtler strategies, such as the grainy finish of his posters, which adds depth and texture to his compositions and, by doing so, challenges the conventions of a field characterized by its glossiness.
Alongside his graphic work, which forms part of the revival of poster-making as an art form, Godfrey creates interactive works, digital animations, illustrations, as well as large-scale murals in his home city, Hamilton. More recently, aligning with his interest in uncovering the inconsistencies of consumerist culture, the artist has ventured into the world of collectible figures designing apparently innocent characters, such as Lefty the Hamburger Helper mascot paired with the possessed hand from the horror film Talk to Me, that draws parallels between the two possessed hands, one to frighten adult audiences, the other to sell pasta to children. When viewed together, Godfrey’s eclectic body of work reflects the manifold avenues of expression of a socially conscious artist who uses branding and mass culture as both a departing and arrival point for creatively exploring, and one may say defying, how we are shaped by what we see.
John Godfrey is the co-founder and creative director of the Toronto-based key art agency Chargefield. His commercial design work has been recognized internationally, receiving prestigious awards including two Entertainment Clio Awards and a Golden Trailer Award. Godfrey’s artistic works have been licensed for limited-edition Collective Arts cans distributed to dozens of countries worldwide. Two of his large-scale digitally-printed murals were displayed at Jackson Square and the Hamilton Farmers Market, both in Hamilton, CA.