Nicolas Party, a New York-based Swiss artist known for his familiar yet unsettling landscapes, portraits, and still lifes rendered in soft pastel, will introduce a new body of work in watercolor in Hauser & Wirth’s latest online exhibition, opening Thursday 7 May.
This exhibition follows Party’s recent, acclaimed Sottobosco, which opened at the gallery’s Los Angeles space this past February. In contrast to the lush paintings and sculptures that created an atmosphere of a dense, richly alive forest floor, the works in Canopy find Party looking upward to an alternative natural space—to the canopy of treetops—where light and air expand. His new series of 11 atmospheric landscapes, all created by the artist while quarantined in upstate New York, embrace watercolour’s intimacy, fluidity, and animate qualities. Here, Party resynthesises the genre of landscape painting, expressly drawing inspiration from the original use of watercolor in landscapes by Charles Burchfield, George Grosz, Georgia O'Keeffe, and William Turner.
Throughout history, trees have been present in so many stories, legends, and religions. They are one of the most important elements in human culture.
In his latest paintings for Canopy, abstracted, transitional forms invite viewers to consider the relevance of the landscape painting genre in a contemporary context, in a moment where the wonder of nature also provokes complex associations. 'Throughout history, trees have been present in so many stories, legends, and religions,' says Party. 'They are one of the most important elements in human culture. Today, they are also one of the primary reminders of our fears and anxieties for the future. How many trees are being painted today? And how many trees are burning?'
Party’s distinctive vision of the natural world derives equally from his relationship to the art historical canon and his childhood explorations in Switzerland, which instilled within him a deep love of nature’s endless arrays of colour, pattern, and form. Recalling his early experiences in the outdoors as they relate to the expansive effects of his new watercolors in Canopy, he observed, 'One of the first things that you draw as a child are trees. The unsteady lines on the paper find a structure in the form of a tree. A line topped with a circle structures the page, creates a space, shows us where the sky is and where the ground… Trees are nature’s alphabets. The infinite flexibility of the visual language of the tree makes its execution endlessly playful.'
Party will follow Canopy with a commission from RxArt to create a 207-foot-long mural for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and a major survey exhibition at MASI Lugano is forthcoming.
Press release courtesy Hauser & Wirth.