Death Becomes Her, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz. Charcoal and gouache on canvas 164 x 133 cm
© Sebastian Guinness Gallery 2011
In the Sebastian Guinness Gallery in Dublin, Wolfe von Lenkiewcz melds Victorian imagery and concerns with twentieth and twenty first century artworks and images to provide an unsettling effect.
If you're in Dublin over the next month or so, you should check out Wolfe von Lenkiewicz's new show, Liberation. Their Story Begins at the Sebastian Guinness Gallery on 42 Dawson Street. The exhibition features 25 works of art by von Lenkiewicz, all of which refer to images from popular culture reproduced sharply in charcoal and pencil. The images are warped by unusual juxtapositions and new contexts -- within each image, at least two works by different artists are referenced.
Von Lenkiewicz's art is somewhere between the postmodern and the gothic - in Danse Macabre, skeletons vie for pride of place with Mickey Mouse heads hung on strings, whereas in Comrade of the Sky, the central Christ figure is obliterated by modernistic dots and optical illusions. In a statement, he explained that his art "demonstrates that no image is sacred and thus the artist is free to disseminate subject matter as they see fit. What is important is distinguishing when such combinations 'work'." He is arguing, he said, against the "complacency of art towards famous images", and the juxtapositions serve to reappropriate, and (appropriately for the title of the exhibition) liberate the vocabularly of cliché.
When looking at von Lenkiewicz's works, one immediately gets a sense of the philosophical understanding that goes into what he terms the 'disturbing' of these images (he studied art and philosophy at York University). These are images that pervade our daily sense of what to do and how to act, images that serve as signposts in contemporary culture, though we know not towards what they point. His art allows a reevaluation of these signifiers that permeate daily discourse and an appreciation of the seriousness that our taking-them-for-granted should be approached with.
Hon. Sebastian Guinness, the owner of the gallery, says that it is this intellectualism which is the initial draw to von Lenkiewicz's art.
"There is a well thought and rigorous intellectualism to Wolf's work - I find his references intriguing - Boccioni melded with Jeff Koons, Picasso with Gericault, Michelangelo and Bridget Riley, seemingly disparate artists painting in distinct idioms, some of which is obscured by time and modern ignorance, but here are fused together, reopening debate and resetting our notions of what an image stands for," he said via email, though he also admires von Lenkiewicz for "his sense of humour and his technical accomplishment." Indeed, looking at a von Lenkiewicz is not only an intellectual, but also a fun and humorous experience.
Guinness also pointed out that von Lenkiewicz seems to follow a trend towards the Victorian fascination with "mortality, romanticism and craft" among contemporary artists, but that he manages to focus it through his juxtaposition of these elements with the images of modernity. With this, Guinness is keen to point out that technical skill is becoming once again more valued in the art market (following the highly conceptual fallout from the YBA years), and that he is optimistic about its return.
Said Guinness: "Once more, there seems to be an appreciation of draughtsmanship and excellence creeping back into a rather tawdry world market, and I for one am happy to be dealing with quality once again."
Liberation. Their Story Begins runs from the 6th of October until the 5th of November at the Sebastian Guinness Gallery, 42 Dawson Street, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.