Wolfe von Lenkiewicz has transformed Bosch’s
Garden of Earthly Delights into a post-historic, transcultural
manuscript. At first glance von Lenkiewicz’s work
appears to be a faithful reproduction of the original, but on
closer inspection it is ‘contaminated’ with imagery from a
wide range of historical and contemporary sources, both
art historical and pop cultural. Diverse and contradictory
images have been smuggled into the already dense and
multilayered scene; from a screaming head by Bacon to
clusters of brightly coloured Pokémon characters. They
share the space of a painted universe but are unknowing of
each other’s existence.
There is no fixed narrative, any symbolic resonances are coincidental and the selection of disparate imagery is
rigorously arbitrary. The artist is playing with our expectations, like a conjurer, he leads us to believe there is some
esoteric connection between the elements of the painting, but the true subject of the work is at once Bosch’s powerful
and valuable art historical artefact, and more pertinently, the problem of the subject in art and the notion of originality
It is important that this series of work is painted in oil paint, utilising the finest of pigments and the most refined of
crystal clear poppy oil. This imparts a jewel-like clarity and preciousness mimicking the aspiration of the Northern
school to depict every detail of ‘God’s’ universe in its infinite and microscopic glory. The medium is also ideal for
rendering gems, the gold crowns of angels and the riches of the material world with which their patrons wished to
associate themselves. The possession of the facsimile steeps the owner in the cloying aura of the actual.
The work in this exhibition would not function on a conceptual, philosophical and physical level if it were not
rendered by the hand of the artist, over a long period of time, and with a most particular attention to detail and
craftsmanship; the labour of the artist becomes part of the subject. There is an inherent seduction in the idea that the
artist is ‘chained’ to the painting, a prisoner of the process; he is present in every brush mark on the canvas. What we
are witnessing here is a conceptual strategy, one which appropriates the viewer’s expectations about what it is that an
artist is, his or her relation to the rest of society, and how that changes the nature of their practice and positions them
within a complex system of philosophical play and virtuoso display.
In Lenkiewicz’s painting of Bosch’s Creation of the World the original’s hybrid creatures and alchemical-like
vessels have been replaced by Hokusai’s iconic print of a giant wave, his equally famous fish appear as leviathan
creatures swimming under the ‘skin’ of the sea. The effect is to make the World resemble a snow shaker, implying
that what we take for reality is no more than the plaything of God, just as the picture we are looking at is nothing more
than another false world.
In Bosch’s The Haywain Triptych the left-hand panel represents The Garden of Eden, In von Lenkiewicz’s
painterly Petri dish the Hindu Goddesses Kali has obscured the shameful Adam and Eve, fighting over them with the
sword carrying cherub. Lenkiewicz manipulates these powerful cultural signifiers by deploying them as access points
into the psyche of his audience. He transects the gap between what is actual, and what is infinitely possible within the
realm of the imagination.
From the essay Another False World: Conjuring the Imaginary in the Work of Wolfe von Lenkiewicz by Richard Dyer
Notes to editors:
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz (British, b. 1966)
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz's chief artistic concern is the appropriation of language and mythology. He boldly experiments with hybrid visual combinations that straddle the
murky borders of the shocking and offensive. His art historical intervention demonstrates our own complacency of art towards famous images, namely those highly learnt
visual compositions of art history. Our knowledge of them has become so much second nature that we take them for granted. It is not until they are disturbed that we realise
how much confidence we place in them.
The history of art can be understood as compromising of changes from one mode of visual representation to another. The difference is the highly contemporary and extreme
nature of Lenkiewicz's subject matter. 9/11 becomes a stage for giant butterflies, Damien Hirst's spot paintings merge with the designs of William Morris, and Adam and Eve
are expelled from a field of oil derricks. The work demonstrates that no image is sacred and thus the artist is free to disseminate subject matter as they see fit. What is
important is distinguishing when such combinations "work". Lenkiewicz has been described as an unbound geneticist-turned-artist, a contemporary iconoclast; allusions he
no doubt relishes.
All Visual Arts
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