The focus of an exhibition and an artist's work can often be driven and influenced by many things - the latest political unrest, a recent trip to a new part of the world or sometimes, another artist. This influence can transcend time and distance. The observer can find similarities in art that even the artist themselves may not have been aware of. Our latest exhibition by SJ Fuerst has us drawing parallels to influential, surrealist Rene Magritte. We explore them below.
Rene Magritte, a phenomenally influential Belgian surrealist whose work depicts familiar objects in unusual contexts, challenges the observers preconceived notions of reality and gives new meanings and altered perceptions.
One of Magritte's most famous and enduring works ‘La Trahison des images’ or ‘the treachery of images’ depicts a pipe with the words “Ceci n'est pas une pipe” or ‘this is not a pipe’ painted beneath. Magritte is critiquing ‘rationalism’, a philosophy placing reason as the best guide for belief and action, that many believed led Europe into WW1. Here Magritte pushes rationalism to it’s limit. It is not a pipe, it is a painting of a pipe.
Parallels can be drawn between this and the work of SJ Fuerst, an American hyperrealist artist who blends two worlds together, injecting bizarre scenes with the conventional, creating a ‘twisted version of the familiar’. Taking inspiration from contemporary and pop culture they use classical techniques to bring these elements together in seamless coalescence in their surreal - hyperrealist work.
When the painting ‘Daphne After Apollo’ was exhibited in the exhibition ‘Forest Fresh’ (a title inspired by the fake “forest fresh” scent of a car air freshener, which also appears as an oversized costume in one of Fuerst’s paintings) at the Lily Agius Gallery in Malta, Fuerst included a forest installation and commented, “I want to create that sensation of being indoors and outdoors at the same time and use this paradox to highlight the play between reality and make-believe in my paintings”. Fuerst’s mention of the interplay between indoors and outdoors reminds us of Magritte’s ‘The Empire of Light’ which depicts a dark street light by a lamppost with a blue cloudy sky above.
Many comparisons can be drawn between SJ Fuerst’s ‘Smile’ and Magritte’s ‘The Son Of Man’. The obscured face, the ambiguous expression of the figure, the listless background, leave us intrigued and beguiled by the ambiguity of both pieces.
We ask ourselves: Why a dog? Is that elbow backwards? Why a cartoon grin? Why an apple? Are they smiling underneath? Is he looking at me? Magritte’s philosophy “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see” rings true through SJ’s work.
Magritte drew on the familiarity of other artists' work, whilst giving it his own surrealist twist, Perspective I and Perspective II, are copies of Jacques-Louis David's Portrait of Madame Récamier and Edouard Manet's The Balcony. However the figures in both the iconic neoclassical and impressionist paintings are replaced by coffins, rendering the recognisable scenes more absurd and morbid in equal measure.
In the same vein SJ has emulated Hockney’s ‘A bigger splash’ in their aptly titled painting in ‘The Surprise’. Fuerst’s piece uses Hockney's as the background whilst a young woman stands proudly in a shark mask and high heels, clad in a swimsuit printed with the words ‘surprise mother f*cker’. SJ and Magritte even imitate the styles of the paintings they’re using as a foil for their surrealist twist to further fuse the familiar and the fanciful.
Art is fluid and inspiration is intangible, it’s all connected somewhere down the line. Despite being separated by many years and miles, these artists have created a dialogue through their work. If you’re a fan of Magritte and have yet to discover SJ’s work, you can visit our gallery to see their latest work in our exclusive exhibition 'This is Not a Life Saving Device', or view the collection online here.
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