press release

The Other Europe. On Art and Political Incorrectness brings to Galleri S E the work of a series of European artists whose work openly or subtly reflects upon the state-of-the-art in Europe at a critical moment in which it doesn’t really know how to cope with the new challenges caused by destabilizing social and political currents and the effects of globalization.

The recent failures of referendums on the EU Constitution in France and The Netherlands, together with the extreme unlikelihood of a referendum in Great Britain and other EU countries only shows that Europe is a project that has not had a serious and open debate up till now, and that it only represents a series of preconceived or artificial ideas which are not very attractive to the common European.

Amidst this wave of uncertainty Europe is turning inwards and some of its citizens are channeling their frustrations towards political and religious fundamentalism. Hate against the other, homophobia, hooliganism, promotion of a monolithic European culture, global paranoia and angst, but also participation in illegal wars like Iraq, pornography and slave prostitution, insidious re-readings of Jewish genocide, and extreme moralism are some of the issues that deny and demystify the widespread idea of Europe as the everlasting cradle of civilization.

Using painting, drawing, and video, the works gathered here are/may be considered politically incorrect, especially in times of neo-nationalistic resurgence like these, as they reflect in a critical manner The Other Europe.

The representations vary from (c)rude violence to seductive sex objects and group orgies, or harmless portraits of prime-ministers, family scenes and “innocent animal molesting.

Both Dutch artists Ronald Ophuis and Bas Meerman deal in their works with tension and violence, although conceptually and formally from a different point of view. Ophuis creates attractive compositions which recall historical extermination –Birkenau 2- and quotidian violence. An intelligent use of perspective, together with “dirty” colors and an exquisite sense of the human anatomy gives beauty to traumatic and controversial images. Also beauty is at stake in Meerman’s Bareback lusty paintings in which the sexual homoerotic scenes, depicted in a camouflage environment, allow a subtle comparison between love and warfare. The images become even more seductive due to the colors and its composition which altogether, and despite its directness, create a sense of intimacy.

The sublime sexual toys of Spanish Chus García-Fraile may or may not have a violent application, but the gold and the silver colors set against a black background surely gives the composition an overall aggressive look. The imponent frontality also adds a layer of aggressiveniss to these subtle painted postmodern still-lifes which become a metaphor against neo-moralism. For Italian Nicola Verlato frontal composition becomes an important issue too in his meticulous charcoal drawings in which a subtle play of shadows, light and perspective recalls immediately classic artists like Holbein. His tableaux vivants turn into extremely elaborate bacchanales where fantasy and social repression go hand in hand in a highly emotive mix where the viewer becomes an active part of. Also Daniele Galliano deals in his paintings with elements among others related to sexual repression, and (slave) prostitution in European urban spaces. Night life becomes an important inspiration to him as it enables him to document the relationships between more marginal human beings. His compositions reflect in a magnificent way this dark atmosphere of nihilism and loneliness.

If the former work of Dutch artist Erwin Olaf was openly controversial and polemic, his recent video Rain explores on a more intimate level the silent and claustrophobic environment within the family. Rain becomes a metaphor for the contradictions of today’s Western society: hypocrisy, social control, marginalization. The family becomes an example of stiffed established norms related to morality and freedom. On his turn, Spanish Santiago Ydáñez creates expressive and expressionistic compositions with a limited use of blacks, whites and greys which convey a big interest for snapshot photography and early 20th century film-makers like Gance, Murnau, or Wiene. His close-ups are made up of loose and direct strokes and the whole gets a melancholic undertone. His cats being molested is a subtle and critical view on a (Nothern) European society that treats its animals better then its immigrants.

Finally, Manfred Peckl undermines the idyllic Christian image we have of a woman and of a mother by presenting scenes and settings that fool around with our preconceived ideas. Peckl creates labour intensive paintings made out of collages from old world atlases. The woman in the landscape adopting politically incorrect poses or simply admitting a sort of a “drinking melancholy” suggests a new and more contemporary and ironic vision of the women of today. And Norwegian Judy Sirks too challenges traditional imagery by means of a series of portraits of Norwegian Christian-conservative politicians. These serious and quite straight forward portraits have texts taken from Gnostic-religious literature which reflect upon the true nature of politics and the general human condition. Can we still trust politicians?

In one way or another these works underline the politically incorrectness of this other Europe pleased with itself and so keen on saying the rest of the world what to do.

Paco Barragán


only in german

The Other Europe. On Art and Political Incorrectness
Kurator: Paco Barragan

mit Daniele Galliano, Chus Garcia Fraile, Bas Meerman, Erwin Olaf, Ronald Ophuis, Manfred Peckl, Judy Sirks, Nicola Verlato, Santiago Ydanez