‘Red Forest’ is Nicolas Party’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong in which he looks to the five elements of the material world as his starting point: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Comprised of 13 new pastel landscapes and portraits created specifically for this show, ‘Red Forest’ illuminates nature’s complex and often inextricable ties with humanity.
Party’s childhood in Switzerland imparted an early fascination with landscape and the natural world, and the influence of this country places Party firmly within the trajectory of central European landscape painting. Considering this historical canon anew amid the current climate crises, ‘Red Forest’ presents Party’s most recent explorations in pastel depicting forest fires.
In addition to Party’s ‘Red Forest’ paintings, the artist’s recent series of portraits feature figures cloaked in meteorites from outer space. The appearance of meteorites is reminiscent of stones in Chinese natural sculpture, or metal in Chinese scholar’s rocks of literati culture. These rock formations are depicted in remarkable, intricate forms with numerous crevices, signaling erosion and forming a stark contrast against the human figures that bear them. The timelessness of painting and its associated traditions fascinate Party. This is also embodied in the ‘Water Reflection’ paintings as clouds, water and reflections symbolize a kind of timelessness, or the continual passage of time.
This new body of artwork is displayed against brightly painted walls; Party’s early interest in graffiti and murals – his projects in this arena have included major commissions for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles – has led to a particular approach toward the installation and presentation of his pastels. He routinely deploys color and makes architectural interventions in exhibition spaces in order to construct enveloping experiences for the viewer.
Born in Lausanne in 1980, Party is a figurative painter who has achieved critical admiration for his familiar yet unsettling landscapes, portraits, and still lifes that simultaneously celebrate and challenge conventions of representational painting. His works are primarily created in soft pastel, an idiosyncratic choice of medium in the 21st-century, and one that allows for exceptional degrees of intensity and fluidity in his depictions of objects both natural and manmade. Transforming these objects into abstracted, biomorphic shapes, Party suggests deeper connections and meanings. His unique visual language has coalesced in a universe of fantastical characters and motifs where perspective is heightened and skewed to uncanny effect.In addition to paintings, Party creates public murals, pietra dura, ceramics, installation works, and sculptures, including painted busts and body parts that allude to the famous fragments of ancient Greece and Rome. His brightly-colored androgynous figures vary in scale from the handheld to the monumental, and are displayed on tromp l’oeil marble plinths of differing heights that upend conventional perspective. Party’s early interest in graffiti and murals—his projects in this arena have included major commissions for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles—has led to a particular approach to the installation and presentation of his work. He routinely deploys color and makes architectural interventions in exhibition spaces in order to construct enveloping experiences for the viewer.
Nicolas PartyRed Forest
On view now through 24 September 2022 at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong.