Alias Trate’s psychologically-charged figurative works embody an iconic mix of raw emotive colour and distorted physical form. His oil-on-canvas figures marry vivid lightness with the gravity of existential interrogation; ontological questions of being and becoming are recurring themes.
Having painted in private for over two decades, the London-based, Canadian artist launched his public debut in 2019 and has quickly built up a cult-like following. Drawing inspiration from the corners of the Western canon, from Søren Kierkegaard to Emily Carr to Jorge Luis Borges, and also from his own pool of eclectic experiences, from small town Ontario to the Swiss Alps to Mali and to Mexico, Alias Trate’s work embodies his reflections on existential struggle.
His painting practice is defined by texture and physicality, particularly his use of traditional raw materials that he shapes on canvas using his fingers. Mixing pure pigments with linseed, safflower, poppyseed or walnut oil, he applies wet paint with traceable brush strokes before using his fingers, wrapped in turpine-soaked rags, to carve out the paint and create form in an intuitive, iterative process.
“While Alias Trate paints in a trance-like state, with only a vague idea of what or who will arise on the canvas in front of him”, says Dr. Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal, University of Cambridge, “he is inspired by existential phenomenology – a strand of philosophy that addresses two interlaced processes of existential becoming: one concerning the relation one has with oneself, and one concerning one’s relation to the Other.”