Lukacs brings Infernal Beings to Winsor

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shawn Conner for the Vancouver Sun: Once an enfant terrible of the Vancouver arts scene, Attila Richard Lukacs is most widely known for his provocative, homoerotic paintings from the 1990s. But the painter’s recent work is less about shock value – though there is some of that – and more about shapes and colours.

“It’s about pushing paint around,” Lukacs said. “It’s a progression as layers meet. Painting is like a daily tantric exercise. I decide I want to paint with yellow, and I lay in yellows, or I choose the movement I want to make.”

There’s a lot of paint – as well as bitumen, gold flake and even a rake – in Lukacs’ current show, Vessels of the Infernal Beings Incarnate. (“It’s one of the paintings,” he said of the exhibit’s last-minute, informal title. “And it’s what the paintings are about.”)

At a glance, Vessels appears to be a mix of different series. One group of canvases, which the artist calls his “topiary” series, explodes with verdant greens and yellows. There are some smaller 16-inch by 16-inch canvases festooned with Jackson Pollock-y squiggles of purple and black on white. Some paintings are divided into a grid of four. There are two mixed-media sculptures, including one that is composed of a rake, a Popsicle stick, a plank, a branch, a sawhorse, wires, and a dangling miniature disco ball.

Lukacs calls the latter piece The Hairy Scrotum of the Monkey.

Several other paintings are connected through recurring shapes such as male silhouettes, lotus flowers, a stove-element-like swirl, neo-classical columns and fountains, and a vaguely Pac-Man-esque creature with a wide open mouth. Only a couple of the paintings recall some of the more homoerotic elements of past Lukacs works of skinheads and military cadets, although one of the few that does – Twinkle Twinkle – packs in a San Francisco gallery’s worth of explicitness.

Lukacs said South Asian art, including Western Indian miniature painting and Tantric painting, influenced the work. “Water, in various forms, seems to be a theme that flows through the show,” he said. “There’s an underpinning theme of the water garden in this show.”

In several of the pieces, drawings emerge from, or despite, the overlays of paint. “I like this work because it has a sense of the drawing,” said Lukacs. “Sometimes that drawing is integral in the painting, as part of the painting, or is the painting.”

He said he regards abstract as the most difficult style of painting. “I think it’s really hard to make an abstract painting work.” Asked how he knows when he’s finished an abstract painting, he laughed and said, “I don’t know. I guess when you’ve f—ed it up.”

Vessels of the Infernal Beings Incarnate is Lukacs’ second show at Winsor Gallery, the first in the gallery’s new location on East 1st near Main.

Once a South Granville mainstay, the gallery has joined a number of other galleries in the area, including Catriona Jeffries, Equinox Gallery, and Macaulay & Co. Fine Art (formerly Blanket Contemporary). The Monte Clark Gallery will reopen on Great Northern Way Feb. 21.

If Thursday night’s turnout is any indicator, Winsor shouldn’t have too much trouble with the transition.

The packed opening for reception for Vessels brought out a who’s-who in the Vancouver art scene, including author/artist (and fellow Emily Carr grad) Douglas Coupland, Paul Wong, and Ian Wallace.

After living in art-centric cities like Berlin and New York, then taking a cleaning-out period in Maui, Lukacs seems content with being a big fish in a small pond, arts-scene-wise, in Vancouver. “I have my footings here,” he said. “There are a lot of artists here per capita,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s a decent arts scene. It is still regional though.”