Robert Muntean at Rosenfeld Porcini

Filed in Reviews by on April 16, 2014

Robert Muntean: The Hardcore of Beauty

Rosenfeld Porcini

4 April to 31 May 2014

robertmunteanrosenfeldporcinialex

The Hardcore of Beauty, Robert Muntean’s first solo exhibition in the UK, endeavours to reinterpret the Viennese artistic tradition of the early twentieth century. Clearly informed by the work of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka, Vienna-born Muntean draws on his personal heritage to produce contemporary paintings which allude to the palettes and techniques of his Austrian forerunners.

Two of Muntean’s largest pieces, ‘An Austrian Painter’ and ‘Sebastian’, are particular highlights. Muntean’s use of Schiele as an artistic reference point is literal in ‘An Austrian Painter’, a painterly version of a famous photograph showing Schiele looking into a mirror. The thinly layered paint that creates no visible texture but still gives a sense of depth is cleverly done, and the build up of drama and complexity in the centre of the work, whilst the edges of the piece blur into emptiness, is interesting. There is a tussle between the abstract and the figurative, also played out nicely in ‘Sebastian’, keeping the viewer engaged and demanding a second look and more careful reading.  However, whilst the painting is technically successful, the defiance of Schiele’s stare and nonchalant stance seen in the original photograph is lost in Muntean’s version. This could, of course, be intentional; this is, after all, a new rendering of the famous image and a re-encountering of Schiele from a standpoint almost 100 years in the future.

The palette of ‘An Austrian Painter’, a largely green canvas with bursts of blue and purple at its most intense moments, is repeated across a number of the pieces in the show, lending the exhibition a pleasing consistency and completeness. Across two floors, the space at Rosenfeld Porcini has been used well with the majority of Muntean’s larger pieces on display in the first, brightly lit gallery and with the smaller works presented in the more intimate space downstairs allowing a different kind of contemplation. Top tip – when I visited, the entrance on Newman Street was undergoing works and was closed, so access is currently only via Rathbone Street.

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Alex Howell

About the Author ()

Alex Howell is a writer and arts professional based in London. She studied English Literature at the University of Cambridge and has an MA in Contemporary Art from the Sotheby's Institute.

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