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Saint Sebastian Suffering

Saint Sebastian Suffering
signed, inscribed, titled and dated 'VOJTECH KOVARIK "SAINT SEBASTIAN SUFFERING" (L.A.) 2019' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 1⁄8 x 24 1⁄8 in. (61.3 x 61.3 cm.)
Painted in 2019.
The Cabin, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Los Angeles, The Cabin, CAPTURE HYPOTHESIS: New Works by Vojtech Kovarik, August 2019.

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Julian Ehrlich
Julian Ehrlich Associate Vice President, Specialist, Head of Post-War to Present Sale

Lot Essay

“Kovařík seduces the viewer with bold lines and exuberant palette, before grabbing our attention with moments of unexpected detail…Moreover, there is a complexity here that marks this work as a cut above the faux-naive or surrealist-inflected figuration that has become fashionable of late” (O. Basciano, “The Provocations of Vojtěch Kovařík,” ArtReview, September 2021, digital).

Vojtěch Kovařík’s Saint Sebastian Suffering is exemplary of the artist’s visual ethos. The depicted figure of Saint Sebastian is larger than life, his body exceeding the picture plane. The flat profile of his side-turned face angles towards his muscular shoulder, as his delicate fingers clutch at one of his arrow-inflicted wounds. He appears as a blue shadow backlit by a gradient of hot orange light, contrasting sharply with the shocking drape of red that bleeds from his acute suffering. A single tear spills from his eye below the slope of a forlorn brow. The thin line of his mouth doesn’t indicate his physical pain, but is rather downcast and solemn from an emotional toll. The deep blue of Saint Sebastian’s skin at once emphasizes his significance in an otherworldly, biblical context, while further conveying the depth of his sorrow.

Kovařík’s aim with his representations of mythical and religious heroes and other classical subjects is to cast them in an intimate light, which blurs the traditional boundaries of gender expressions and norms, specifically subverting notions of masculinity and heroism. This representation of Saint Sebastian is not one of a stoic martyr who is resigned to his fate, but rather emphasizes his vulnerability and distress in his suffering. The constrained nature of the masculine body in this composition shifts the expression of strength from the physical to the mental. Instead, at the center of the composition is his tear-track, emphasizing the power of his expressiveness and the current of emotion that flows through him.

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