Construct and (Various) Disasters of Democracy

Existential Painting in the Former East Germany

Installation shot, Construct and (Various) Disasters of Democracy
Galerie Dukan, Leipzig, Germany

Duncan Wylie is a prodigious painter who, having tasted success in Paris, has removed to London. He has a large ACME studio in Deptford, where I had the chance to discuss his painting with him recently.

His new solo exhibition is currently on show at Galerie Dukan, Leipzig.

The show, in a vast gallery space, is beautifully hung and comprises paintings (both large and small), drawings, and etchings.

Wylie works with explosions of colour that represent explosions of trains or buildings either dilapidated or disintegrated as if by explosion. He works paint and then remorselessly over-paints again and again. For some paintings – that take months to finish – original persons, objects or scenes remain visible only as remnants. This gives them a ghostly presence in whatever the finished painting presents

The paintings are palimpsests of the earlier stages of the work and our apprehension of them requires that we locate, as best we can, the different spaces that once penetrated the picture plane.

The multi-spatial apprehensions of the pictures make them uncompromisingly ambiguous. They are pictures that of objects scenes or events that cannot be perceived. For space is one and continuous and these pictures put into collision different sorts of space and different sorts of temporal locations. They are pictures spaces at once occupied by different spaces and times. A man looms large and disintegrates as an exploding train becomes a part of what he was. It’s as if a figure casts a shadow that becomes a catastrophic event which has nothing to do with the man who disappears into his own shadow.

Wylie was born in 1975 in Zimbabwe and was exiled as part of Robert Mugabe’s expulsion of both white and black settlers. Writer and philosopher, Philip Hautmann, sees in this Wylie’s nomadic life and duly accords his paintings with the same sort of expression of ‘unbehaustheit’ (homelessness).

That homelessness shows up in the paintings of a man disintegrating – or perhaps he’s in the process of self-assemblage – as he walks along a railroad track. In any case the existentialism that Hautmann interprets in the work is akin to that of Travis as he clops aimlessly around the West Texas desert in the film, Paris, Texas

Duncan Wylie, Love All, oil on canvas

He also sees, in the etchings, an inheritance from Bohemian illustrator and printmaker, Alfred Kubin. Kubin is probably best known for his illustrations of the German editions of the work of Edgar Allan Poe and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Certainly, the former is seen as a prototypical wanderer, much appreciated by both the surrealists and the Situationist International.

The prints are unsettling and, given the exhibition title are emblems steeped in foreboding, for democracy is indeed in peril. And this might well hang heavily in the mind of Duncan Wylie as he and his French partner, Natacha, have recently become the proud parents of Rosanna.

The paintings have a surreal aspect, but the handling of the paint is masterful. The surfaces are sumptuous. On my visit to his studio, Wylie spoke of the struggle with the image. It’s as if he dances with it – a tango, I suspect. These are beautiful works of art.

Duncan Wylie, Cabin Fever, oil on canvas

DUNCAN WYLIE

Construct and (Various) Disasters of Democracy

Galerie Dukan Leipzig

13.04 – 09.06.2018

Galerie Dukan Paris Leipzig / Spinnereistraße 7, Halle 18.I, 04179 Leipzig, Deutschland / info@galeriedukan.com / +49 159 01401465

Edward Winters
About Edward Winters 37 Articles
Ed studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and later wrote his PhD in Philosophy at UCL. He has written extensively on the visual arts and is presently writing a book on everyday aesthetics. He taught at University of Westminster and at University of Kent and he continues to make art.

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