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On the cutting edge

Ernst Arnold Bauer at Windjammer II Gallery

My initial response to the Ernst Arnold Bauer exhibition at Windjammer II was that Mr. Bauer is more than 100 years too late.

By that I mean his emphasis on beauty and his approach to paintings brought to mind Gustav Klimt and the Viennese Succession, as well as Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau and French Symbolism.

Indeed, with Bauer's very lifestyle, I thought he could have easily slipped into the circle of such late 19th Century aesthetes as Oscar Wild and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Keep in mind that with the advent of 20th century modernism, beauty was generally thought to be suspect.

Indeed, well known New York abstract expressionist painter, Barnett Newman, in 1948, summed up modernism by saying that the impulse of modern art is the desire to destroy beauty.

Even in more recent times, the art critic and philosopher, Arthur C. Danto, in one of his essays, (‘Kalliphobia in Contemporary Art') referred to the kalliphobic or the fear of beauty in modern art.

Possibly these negative responses were reactions to the heavy emphasis on beauty that preceded modernism.

Whatever the case, perhaps enough time has transpired to once again allow for a renewed emphasis on beauty in art.

Could it be that Ernst Arnold Bauer, instead of being 100 years too late, is actually at the forefront of a renewed interest in artistic beauty?

In an earlier Bauer review, I wrote about the need for beauty in human life.

We are drawn to beauty, deeply desire it and given the choice, will surround ourselves with beauty. Beauty is not only life enhancing, it heightens health.

Recent research in hospitals, indicates that patients who are surrounded by the beautiful, when recovering from surgery, for example, heal faster and spend fewer days in the hospital. So why this apprehension of beauty in art?

Returning now to the Bauer exhibition,there is something precious about Ernst Bauer's art and this perception is enhanced by the fact that Bauer uses such materials as gold, silver and silk, as well as a multitude of colours.

On the surface, Bauer's paintings come across as abstract and in some cases, they are definitely abstract, nevertheless, in many of his paintings, there are references to the real, visual world that surrounds us.

For example, with a little searching, a face, a figure or an eye may emerge, from within the tangle of coloured shapes. Bauer makes use of a variety of painting media.

The first three paintings in this show, are completely non-objective creations in oil paint on board. Additionally, a number of paintings are in acrylic on canvas, several are in gouache on silk and a number are in pastel on hand made paper.

The first three paintings in the show, ‘Light Reflection I, II & III' are probably my favourites. These are the abstracts on board, already mentioned.

In these there are less obvious references to outside influences, still, there are indications that the artist was under the spell of Jugendstil or Art Nouveau. Additionally, all three are highly colourful.

Bauer's pastels on paper are the works that most obviously derive from the late pastels of Odilon Redon and French Symbolism.

The latter art movement, which was centred in France, permeated late nineteenth European literature, music and the visual arts.

The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery, however, the symbols employed, are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography. Instead they were highly personal, private and often obscure.

Some of the well known symbolists painters, in addition to Redon, were Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, Arnold Böcklin and Franz von Stuck.

Bauer's paintings entitled ‘Microcosmos-Macrocosmos', ‘In the Garden' and ‘Transcend' are the ones most derivative of the art of Gustav Klimt.

In these, Bauer uses geometric patterns that are similar to ones employed by Klimt in such well known paintings as: ‘Kiss, Tree of Life' or the portrait of Adele Block-Bauer.

Bauer calls his Windjammer II exhibition, Art Pure, Transreal. It continues through April 1, 2011

Walking on the edge: Austrian-born artist Ernst Bauer, whose paintings combine abstract and realism, opens his mixed media exhibition, ?Art Pure ? Transreal?, to the public in the Windjammer II Gallery at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess on Friday, March 18.  Photo by Elizabeth Andrade.

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Published March 24, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm)

On the cutting edge

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