The figures in Hernan Bas's paintings are charged with potential. Captured at various thresholds - between youth and adulthood, innocence and experience, public and private realms - and situated within a shifting terrain of interior and exterior spaces that bring to mind poles of intellect and physicality, the androgynous boys in these paintings engage in rituals of courtship, love and death that seem to be based on a theatrical exaggeration of emotion. The construction of identity and dispersal of meaning are rendered thematically and pictorially fraught. Bas embellishes and destabilises as he describes, his brushwork often threatening to engulf, his colours edging towards over-ripe or chemical hues suggestive of transformation or intoxication.
Clearly there are literary precursors at play - in particular the Decadent writings of Joris-Karl Huysmans and Oscar Wilde are evoked. There's also a keen sense both of the pleasures and the limits of a queer vocabulary which, often thought of as demarcating a space of resistance through the awareness of double meanings and the construction of codes, is unlocked by Bas to welcome major motifs from the art historical canon. Reclaiming some of art's grand themes and spotlighting the degree of role-play that necessarily accompanies any new interpretation, Bas invites us to revel in a liberating sense of flux that, as much as it applies to the nascent identity of the youths he paints, alludes to the creative act itself.
Memphis Living Bas' most recent exhibition which spans Victoria Miro and Victoria Miro Mayfair coincides with the publication by Rizzoli, New York of HERNAN BAS: a lavish monograph that is the most comprehensive publication devoted to the artist's career to date. With over 200 colour plates and with texts by Christian Rattemeyer, Jonathan Griffin, and an interview with Nancy Spector.