|"Each painting is a renewed attempt to get closer to the truth, an existential quest to find tracks that run parallel to the motions of the cosmos." Elisabeth Lalouschek|
In this, her sixth solo exhibition at the October Gallery, Elisabeth Lalouschek, Artistic Director of the October Gallery, will present a series of her most recent canvases. This new work - a precise poetics of colour and form - has liberated itself from all pre-conceived notions of painting to become a direct translation of the artist’s visions onto the canvas - without any preliminary sketches. The works show the resolution of particular questions directly on the canvas itself, being spontaneous, raw and utterly compelling.
Having absorbed, in her professional career as a curator, broad influences from contemporary artistic currents from around the world, Lalouschek’s bold and highly coloured canvases confront major themes of transformation and change in surprisingly novel ways. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1983, Viennese-born painter and theatre designer Elisabeth Lalouschek, the recipient of various awards (George Rowney Bicentennial Special Award etc.) and major scholarships (British Council, Austrian State Scholarship etc.), has exhibited in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris and Mexico, and has been an active participant in the October Gallery’s pioneering creation and promotion of the art of , the Transvangarde, the trans-cultural avant-garde.
"She wields a brush like Scaramouche wielded a sword, with deadly aim and incredible flexibility."
The News, Mexico City.
On the occasion of Elisabeth Lalouschek's sixth solo show at the October Gallery, it becomes possible to chart, in retrospect, the critical points marking the development of a singular talent during some two decades of experimentation, innovation and transformation. The overall line of development plots a marked transition from the early large-scale figurative work done in oils to a gestural expressionism based on the abstract use of highly coloured acrylics. These exciting new canvases confirm that Lalouschek has now attained a practised ease and spontaneity of expression, and that her habit of working directly on the canvas with no preliminary sketching has matured into a free-flowing gestural style which remains, inimitably, her own.
Lalouschek's early work - which attracted much critical attention as she graduated from the Royal College of Art, in 1983 - concentrated on the male torso. Oversized canvases on which bare-chested, muscular bikers posed and preened themselves upon their gleaming metal mounts bespoke a world freighted with an underlying erotic tension, hinting at broad themes of dominance, bondage and the fetishistic transferences of male desire. On the strength of these self-confidently assertive oil paintings, Lalouschek was invited to present her first show at the October Gallery that same year. Thus began the long association that has seen her move from first-time exhibiting artist to Artistic Director in her own right, a position of influential authority allowing her to develop her own artistic career even as she promotes the careers of others.
The years following graduation saw Lalouschek travelling overseas, spending time in the United States and Mexico and eventually accepting a scholarship to study in Paris. It was the time spent in Puerta Vallarta, on Mexico's Pacific coast, that most influenced the progress of her work during this period. The striking colours of the shifting sea and sky, irradiated by a dazzling sun, the rich earth-tones of the land itself and the brilliant hues accompanying each evening's sunset drenched her palette with a fiery range of colours ranging from brightest orange to deepest violet. Set amongst these swirling primaries the male torso still features, a reminder of earlier concerns, giving a human point of reference upon which to focus attention. Though now no longer the central actor in a thrilling drama matching man against machine, these later figures operate more as a motif, part of the play of symbolic elements, spirals, circles and triangular lines that fracture the picture plane into discrete zones of concern. Within these cut-up planes could be glimpsed, in embryo, the highly mobile clouds, obscuring suns and moons, and other abstract landscapes soon destined to usurp the canvases' centre stage. A line from a poem penned in Puerta Vallarta "the sky: racing clouds torn from huge coloured sheets," suggests that Lalouschek was already aware of the floating masses of colour that were to occupy her next.
In attempting to do justice to those vivid fields of colour captured each evening on the canvas of the skies, Lalouschek began to experiment using pastel crayons and later acrylics, both of which exploit inherent reflective properties to suggest an interior luminosity. When used on heavy black paper the pastels, as well as increasing the contrastive qualities of the colour, had the added effect of supplying textured depth and definition to the stroke allowing a range of different effects, especially where the black background seemed to seep through the vibrant foreground colour. Valuable lessons learnt here would later be applied to the acrylic works on canvas, where, as in Cosmic Blues II, the inky ground is suggestive of the vast reaches of space against which the nebulous veils of interstellar clouds are highlighted.
The intervening years of research have seen Lalouschek's already formidable sense of colour broaden and expand to a point where she is capable of making colours that oughtn't work together, do just that, and strikingly so, by the introduction of a third, a mediator that acts as a catalyst in this alchemical process. Besides this long apprenticeship in the realm of colouration, perhaps the single most important advance to the present is a growing facility with the shape of the broad strokes of colour themselves. It is not too much to suggest that in this area she has been subtly influenced by the work of many non-western artists with whom, in her professional capacity as a curator of exhibitions of exciting work from other cultures, she is constantly in contact. Of particular importance in this respect is the work of the Jordanian artist, Wijdan, whose colourful works of abstract Arabic calligraphy, give many subtle pointers. Again, from a calligraphic perspective, her early championing of the Japanese work of Kenji Yoshida and of the much younger Masahito Katayama are both fruitful sources of study as to the way the brush-stroke itself - it's power and continuity, it's life energy - becomes a vehicle for meaning. In these most recent works the electric intensity of the whole is the product of the emotional drama of the colour multiplied by the gestural vitality of the brushwork.