Alchemy Gallery presents a new series of work by figurative painter Karim B Hamid

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Alchemy Gallery presents a new series of work by figurative painter Karim B Hamid
The End of Play and Infancy is an extension of these themes, and of Hamid’s desire to discard the superficial and cultivate meaningful, genuine connection via life and art.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alchemy Gallery opened its Lower East Side doors on Wednesday, May 18th for its inaugural exhibition - a new series of work by figurative painter Karim B Hamid. Entitled The End of Play and Infancy, the show features Hamid’s thought provoking artistic style; a layered approach that results in paintings that capture a kind of psychic element of the person or thing being observed, with a depth of detail not ordinarily interpreted by the conditioned eye. The End of Play and Infancy is on view from May 18th through June 16th.

Hamid’s work regularly pulls from the combined traditions of pin-up modeling, vintage soft pornography and western art history to turn the concept of objectification on its head - his paintings focus on what the male gaze means, rather than being about an illicit depiction of the female form. Hamid uses the fluidity of his medium to further that point; his subjects are distorted and exaggerated, pushing the viewer to contemplate not only what they are seeing, but the art of how they see it as well.

The End of Play and Infancy is an extension of these themes, and of Hamid’s desire to discard the superficial and cultivate meaningful, genuine connection via life and art. Inspired by the intimacy, romanticism, and the real life human elements captured in films and pornography of the 70’s, this series may invoke an immediate risque sensibility, but really is the antithesis of that. It is an intriguing, visually poetic interpretation of an artistic time in pornography that has since evolved into over-manufactured content void of authenticity and spirituality.


In my paintings there is an attempt to capture a kind of psychic element of the person or thing being observed. I am interested in focusing on the kind of details that are not readily available to the conditioned eye.

I prefer to refer to my paintings as a sort of ‘psychic archaeology’ . I refer to a type of image that occurs in the blink of an eye. But through the magic of liquid paint it is a kind of quick moment that can be (and is) elongated and stretched further. In that stretched moment, there is a confusion in the mind’s eye about what it wants to see …. or what it can see. And, ultimately it becomes a question of what the mind does with what it sees. This type confusion is then carefully layered in a painting so that nothing is very clear upon first direct sight, but everything that was before battles to be seen. This layering process allows for a composite image whereby the detailed portions of a painting are just as important as is the whole. I ask the viewer to seek out details that might otherwise be overlooked in a shorter viewing time. I encourage the viewer to see something deeper (or more subtle) in the person or thing being observed.

For almost 35 years I have continued to try and maintain a singular interest in presenting an image (painting) that is at once immediate to the viewing eye - and secondly it is deliberately slowed to a point where it can visually be scrutinized. Because of that singular interest over these many years, I revert back to three distinct artists (and art forms) that helped me considerably in providing an inspiration for my own work.

In 1986 I was visiting the Tate Museum in London (now called Tate Britain) and happened for the very first time upon the paintings of artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992). I was completely astounded by what I saw in his work. I’d go so far as to say I had an almost physical reaction to his paintings. His work, to me, was capable of creating a profound and immediate imagery that went straight to a physical reaction in the average viewer. Bacon gave to me, as a painter, the possibility for the first time that you could make an image that bypassed the usual technical virtuoso and intellectual displays many artists relied on to impress the viewer. Bacon was interested in a sudden impact. This idea of ‘immediacy’ became an inspiration for my own work. I’ve wanted my work to create the same kind of visual sensation that I first discovered in Francis Bacon’s paintings.

It was in about 1988 that I also came to see the films of artist (film maker) of Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986). Over the years I’m fully aware that Tarkovsky’s films can be to visually slow and somewhat vague for most viewers. But, it was these things that actually made me absolutely LOVE his films. Each and every one of them operated like an elongated dream and his visual style was often slow and nuanced. There are 2 important scenes from 2 different films that he created that I still, to this day, look upon as important inspiration to what I want to do with my own work (paintings). The first scene I remember strongly was from Tarkovsky’s film titled ‘Nostalgia’ - it is a scene in which a man stands upon a famous Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue in a piazza in Rome, Italy and begins to make a speech. At the end of his speech he lights himself on fire and slowly falls to the ground and starts to crawl before collapsing. During his fall from the statue and eventual collapse we hear a segment of music from Beethoven’s famous Symphony No 9 (The Ode to Joy). But, in this case, the music quickly becomes distorted in sound and stops abruptly when the man finally collapses. The second scene that has resonated with me all of these years comes from another Tarkovsky film titled ‘Solaris’. In this this film there is a cosmonaut who is sent to investigate strange events on board of a space station orbiting an odd type of swirling planet. As part of his visit to this space station he starts to encounter his own strange phenomena, including the return of a dearly beloved wife who had died on Earth some time before. In this particular scene, this cosmonaut endures the regeneration of his wife who continues to ‘die’ in front of his eyes each and every time he leaves her alone for any period of time. It is a simple moment - but the way it is filmed is powerful and haunting….. and very human. In these scenes Tarkovsky creates a strange and insightful event by attempting to bend time, visuals and sound. These were things that I also wanted to do in my paintings over time. I also wanted to bend and distort particular visual moments to try and extract a very ‘psychic’ moment in between what can be seen with the eye and felt with the heart.

And, lastly, I was introduced to the classical music of artist Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) around 1989 also. Schnittke had the ability to bridge an interesting gap between the traditional forms of classical music and sort of distort and challenge new sounds he would introduce in to the genre. In almost all of his earlier ‘Concerto’ works he developed a sound that was intense, often sudden, but fused to a more formal structure that was familiar to more traditional forms and sounds in classical music. As a young art student I was trained academically to replicate the forms and styles of the famous artists of art history. So, in that process I developed a great respect for these artists and their traditional styles of painting. As a result, I decided early on that I wanted to do what Schnittke had done with his music - I wanted to find a way to marry the traditional visual forms and introduce something new and disjunctive at the same time. Like ingredients introduced together in cooking - I wanted to see what would happen when I did so.

These artists were more than instrumental in inspiring me and my own art over the years. I’ve always wanted to try and create something that was both recognizable to the average eye (something ‘normal’) and equally foreign or ‘strange’ to the average eye. I prefer to operate in the tense limbo between the recognizable and unrecognizable. In other words, I want to create images that are both normal and abnormal at the same time. I want viewers to look deeper at things.

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