Wednesday 31st Jan - Saturday 24th Feb 2007
PERVERSION IS THE LOVE WE FEEL WHEN OTHERS FEEL LOVE
This series of landscape paintings by Shay Kun draws heavily on a very specific historic period and location, namely the Hudson River School of the 19th century. Kuns landscapes particularly reference Thomas Coles (1801-1848) reverent paeans to nature and Albert Bierstadts (1830-1902) towering Yosemite cliff faces, awestruck visions of the sublime in the American West. Both artists focused on idealized pastoral landscapes, whose romanticism is evident in the synthetic composition, and held values that were rapidly dismissed and out of fashion even in their own lifetime.
Kuns works, however, denote their cultural position with the addition of interlopers in the scenery. Applied in acrylic as opposed to the oil background, the inserts are not only out of place and out of scale, but they are moreover out of context, geographically and/or socially.
Pristine vistas are blighted by tightropes, flagpoles, killer-whales and evidence of contemporary human presence; battleships, estate cars and frogmen. The contrast between these contemporary figures and their stylized and specifically dated environment is abrupt, but despite this, they are an almost offensively inadequate substitute for the deities or characters of noble bearing that filled their place in painting of the past centuries. The cut and paste figures seem oddly pathetic, and while their jarring absurdity echoes the Knights and maidens in Thomas Coles Gothic fantasies The Departure, 1837 and The Return, 1837, their modernity somehow fails to match their romanticized predecessors august and worthy outlook.
The works, however, remain open-ended as Kuns almost contradictory decision to paint the landscapes himself rather than appropriate or collage onto existing images, implies a degree of sincerity and even a celebration of the Hudson Valley School.
If this much love, labour and effort is employed in the production of these landscapes, perhaps the re-presentation of these aesthetics might be justified beyond any ironic nod to the fickle cycles of art history.
Shay Kun lives and works in New York.