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Expulsion from Paradise

Expulsion from Paradise
signed, titled and dated ‘VOJTECH KOVARIK “EXPULSION FROM PARADISE” 2019’ (on the reverse)
acrylic and spray paint on canvas
59 1/8 x 59 1/8in. (150.1 x 150.1cm.)
Executed in 2019
L21 Gallery, Palma.
Private Collection, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Executed in 2019, the year after Vojtěch Kovařík’s first solo exhibition, Expulsion from Paradise is an early work that captures his fascination with mythology and iconography. Born and raised in the Czech Republic, and largely self-taught as a painter, the artist creates large, vibrant canvases depicting heroes, gods and totemic figures. In the present work, Kovařík riffs on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden: a subject immortalised by Masaccio, Rubens and others. Rendered in flaming red tones, his demonic protagonist exits a leafy glade, fronds of foliage visible behind him. Typically working in square formats, Kovařík pushes his subjects to the outer limits of the canvas, their vast muscular forms cramped uncomfortably into the edges of the picture plane. In doing so he caricatures their exaggerated masculinity, creating playful puns on themes of power and vulnerability.

Kovařík developed a love of classical history and mythology at an early age, visiting Greece in the summer with his parents as well as making regular trips to museums across Europe. He studied ceramics and sculpture at art school, but eventually turned to painting of his own accord. His works draw together a staggering array of influences: from ancient art and the Old Masters to Brutalism, Soviet posters, film noir and contemporary popular culture. ‘His re-reading of mythology’, writes Nicolas-Xavier Ferrand, ‘sends us back to Picasso and Baselitz, while his rough figures, planted in vegetal backgrounds made of separate leaves, seem to emerge directly from a Henri Rousseau’s jungle painting, another declared influence’ (N-X. Ferrand, ‘Vojtěch Kovařík’s Mythologies’, www.vojtechkovarik.com). The present work, with its partial glimpse of an exotic land, bears witness to this particular source of inspiration.

Kovařík delights in the contrast between his ultra-masculine ‘landscapes of muscles’ and the comic absurdity of his tight crops. ‘I make heroes on a supra-human scale because they are powerful heroes and gods’, he explains. ‘… The fact they are often just cutouts or cramped bodies around the perimeter of the frame … gives them more emotions and depth, immortality, and fragility, or even coarseness and softness’ (V. Kovařík, quoted in S. Bogojev, ‘Inside a Hidden Garden: A Conversation with Vojtêch Kovařík’, Juxtapoz, 26 February 2020). The artist’s signature combination of acrylic and spray paint emphasises this duality. In the present work, the figure’s bold, graphic lines are at odds with the mottled blurring of his flesh, its texture calling to mind an ancient stone relief as well as a graffitied wall. Past and present, grandeur and humour, the heroic and the demonic: all are bound together in a playful battle of wits.

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