Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s, a major retrospective at Singapore's National Gallery (14 June–15 September 2019), opens emphatically in flames. At the exhibition's entrance, viewers encounter a wall-sized image from 1964 titled Burning Canvases Floating on the River. The photograph captures a performance by Lee, in which he took...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...
Exhibition view of Hernan Bas & Young Do Jeong exhibition, Wild n Out, at PKM Gallery, 2017. Courtesy of the artist, Lehman Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, and PKM Gallery, Seoul.
Two artists exhibit two very different expressive styles — one is figurative and the other is abstract. Somehow, however, there exists quite a surprising similarity between American Hernan Bas and Korean Jeong Young-do when it comes to expressing suppressed desires in their works.
With their thick applications of paint and distinct, layered brushstrokes, American artist Hernan Bas' sensual portraits and landscapes are inspired by literature, sexuality, old-world romanticism and the supernatural.
Bas grew up in Florida and was struck by the superficial obsession with idealised male bodies in Miami in the 1980s and 1990s. Addressing such vanity, Bas made early paintings with the diet drink Slim Fast. In Slim Fast Silhouette (1999–2000), a thin young man sits with a finger outstretched, his body rendered in splotchy browns. The series' inclusion in a landmark exhibition titled Making Art in Miami: Travels in Hyperreality (2000) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami launched Bas' career.
Male beauty is paramount to Bas's figurative paintings. Stirred by the romance and sentimentalism of 19th-century writers like Oscar Wilde and Joris-Karl Huysmans, Bas' work is particularly concerned with the 'dandy' figure—a young, effeminate and handsome man—whom he renders often lounging with a blank expression in luxuriant settings. In Bloomsbury revisited (air plants) (2017), for example, a comely man's face is reflected in a golden mirror surrounded by ornamental objects such as a painted plate, a flickering candle and spidery succulents. Similarly, in the 2018 painting How best to tolerate the stench of modernity, a freckled, adolescent-looking boy daintily holds a fan in a lush, quilted red space that dissolves into abstract shapes towards the bottom of the canvas. In four bathers by a river (2017), young men in various stages of undress wade into an inky body of water, surrounded by plants.
With their layered imageries, Bas' paintings are the results of extensive research. He is informed by men's fashion magazines and books including Boy Scout manuals and legends of the occult. Ultimately, a long-standing interest in an 'otherworldly and coded history of homosexuality' (as the artist puts it) unites his oeuvre. The series 'Insects from Abroad'—exhibited at Perrotin Tokyo in 2018—was inspired by an 1874 book describing foreign bugs—Bas was struck that the book's poetic and fantastical language was similar to that used to describe dandies in the same century. Similarly, his series 'Bright Young Things'—first exhibited at Lehmann Maupin in 2016—is based on the homoerotic undertones of the aristocrats of 1920s London.
In addition to portraiture, Bas is also known for his byzantine and eerie landscapes. Ubu Roi (the war march) (2009) depicts a fantastical scene replete with ornate castles, stormy cliffs, a rayless river and mysterious marching figures. These heady, dreamlike paintings arise from Bas' interest in the paranormal, a fascination he attributes to mysterious experiences while growing up in suburban Florida.
Bas graduated from the New World School of Arts in Miami in 1996 and later left Cooper Union after one semester. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including at Kunstverein Hannover; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London; and the 53rd Venice Biennale.
Bas lives and works in Detroit.
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