Hernan Bas: Saints & Secret Sects

2 June - 28 July 2007
Victoria Miro Gallery I

Information

16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

This new body of work, Saints & Secret Sects furthers the artist's interest in figuring historical and mythological narratives within the imagery and iconography of popular culture, literature, queer culture and here, religious mysticism.

In these new paintings, Bas's characteristically lonesome, youthful figures are cast as various saints. In one scene, the Virgin Mary lactates on a boyish Saint Bernard, while Saint Francis, so often the subject of both historical and contemporary genre painting, receives the stigmata. Saint Ambrose is depicted fighting off a swarm of bees, and in another, a young shepherd is tempted away from his flock by shadowy, hooded figures.

In Saints & Secret Sects Bas alludes to the cultural preoccupation with the iconography of saints and aligns it with the supernatural. Bas's new-found curiosity in the "lives of saints" lies in the seemingly paranormal aspects of their legends. Taken as literature, the extreme nature of many of the tales can verge on the haunting apparitions of ghost stories, or visionary texts taken from modern new-age publications. That the faith of so many is based on such elaborate mythologies is what draws Bas to this imagery.

The atmospheric, otherworldly quality to the paintings and Bas's sumptuous treatment of surface evokes a lyricism that parallels the subjects' layered narratives. The artist proposes that the so-called 'cult of sainthood' is not so far removed from other, secular systems of belief such as those of secret societies, commenting that "the need to belong to something greater than one's self is the basis for the existence of both."

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