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Sotheby's S/2 exhibition brings together some of Europe's most intriguing contemporary painters
Daniel Pitín, Savoye, 2013-14, 64 by 81cm.
LONDON.- Sotheby’s S|2 will present This Side of Paradise curated by Jane Neal, a leading expert on the contemporary art scene in Central and Eastern Europe and a celebrated curator. Featuring some of the most important contemporary painters working in the figurative tradition, This Side of Paradise offers a privileged view of artists who rather than follow the trajectory set by American Abstraction and Pop Art that dominated the latter half of the twentieth century, have instead committed to figurative painting.

Tilo Baumgärtel, Marius Bercea, Zsolt Bodoni, Tim Eitel, Chantal Joffe, Michael Kunze, Marcin Maciejowski, Justin Mortimer, Rosa Loy, Daniel Pitín, Ged Quinn, Şerban Savu, Mircea Suciu, Alexander Tinei, Caroline Walker and Matthias Weischer share in common a fascination for society and human nature in all its messy imperfection and the paradoxical 'double vision' that so often characterises artists and writers: the desire to be in the thick of things and validated by the world they simultaneously stand apart from and critique; at times with incisive, brutal honesty.

Authors and artists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (after whose first novel the title of this exhibition is taken), succeeded in being accepted into the very heart of society, while secretly assuming a detached position that allowed them to analyse and criticise those who sustained them. They then presented the results to the world as an encapsulated, but tumultuous heady 'mise en scene': flawed, extravagant and tragic.

Fitzgerald made a name for himself as the 'golden boy' of the Jazz Age of the early 20th Century. A hundred years on from the onset of the First World War that ripped apart Europe, the author's stories, and film adaptations are still resonating today. Times may have changed but human nature continues to crave 'fly on the wall' insight into the lives and foibles of the rich, the beautiful and the powerful.

Now though, social media enables the majority of us to trespass on the terrain once reserved for artists and writers. However, though we can comment on what we read and see in the media, we are only the equivalent of satellites relaying titbits of information that have escaped from the world we circumnavigate but cannot break into.

In contrast, the artist can access all levels of society, moving at will between different social and financial backgrounds. He occupies a privileged position this side of paradise. However he also has a complicated relationship with his subject. He looks for beauty and often finds instead destruction and pain, and yet - diametrically opposed as the two things may be - when horror is depicted, it is not impossible that the artist also unwittingly creates a thing of beauty.

In his poem Tiare Tahiti, published in 1914, Rupert Brooke concludes: 'Dive and double and follow after, Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call, With lips that fade, and human laughter And faces individual, Well this side of Paradise!...There's little comfort in the wise.'

It is not hard to see how the beautiful young man, cut down in his prime (best remembered for his achingly evocative and heart rending poetry about the beginning of the First World War, and who with his flamboyant life amongst the Bloomsbury set, ambivalent sexuality and brilliance, epitomised what Gertrude Stein purportedly termed: 'The Lost Generation'), would serve as an inspiration and a memento mori for the young American (and Europhile), Fitzgerald.

'The Lost Generation' entered the psyche of European culture and continues to haunt artists even today. In many of the works in this exhibition we see the influence of several early 20th Century movements: Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism to name but three. In others we feel something of the spirit of that age reborn; the reawakening of a particular atmosphere, rather than style.

This side of Paradise we should expect all manner of things: the devastating and the beautiful. Everything that characterises the bizarre nature of our 21st Century life is laid out for us by artists, especially painters. Using this ancient, plastic medium they produce a tangible response to the strange business of being present in the 'real world' whilst delving into the virtual. Within one pictorial plane they combine reality, the imagined, memory, and fiction; sifting through an almost limitless supply of sources. Through paint we see the artist's love of life, their mistrust of society and the deeply human desire to be affirmed by, and part of, this flawed world.

This Side of Paradise is a celebration of European figurative painting today. Given its timing - a century on from the start of the First World War - it also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the impact of terrible loss in the 20th Century, and the political, social and cultural change that ensued and has persisted until today.

Discussing the exhibition, Jane Neal, Curator, commented: “This Side of Paradise is underpinned by the tradition of artist as observer and commentator – someone who is necessarily an outsider but at the same time often granted privileged access. This was epitomised by F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose novels shine a spotlight onto society, examining all that life has to offer this side of paradise.

What’s interesting is that just as Fitzgerald was intrigued by Rupert Brooke and the ghosts of his ‘Lost Generation’, many of these contemporary artists are also still haunted by the historical and cultural inheritance of the impact of the World Wars, the resonance that the past has on today and they have their own commentary on this experience.”

Fru Tholstrup, Director of S|2 added: “My vision for S|2 has always been as a space for presenting not only established artists, but also artists who are newer to the scene and so I’m delighted that we’re working with Jane on This Side of Paradise – a show which brings a whole range of brilliant young artists from across Europe together under one roof. Many of these artists have produced works specifically in response to Jane’s concept and as such this exhibition offers a unique perspective on the cultural landscape of modern-day Europe.”





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