Aesthetica - A Piercing Gaze

The pandemic has altered how we live, work and make art. It’s also changed how we visit exhibitions. Online viewing rooms and 360 galleries have become the norm, with many institutions porting entire programmes online. The question is: what’s next?

London-based Canadian artist Alias Trate is at the forefront of this narrative, having launched several digital exhibitions in lockdown. His most recent project takes interactivity a step further, using surveillance drone footage as part of a new virtual tour.

Titled The Dionysian Kid, the show highlights figurative works made throughout 2020. The bright, abstract images draw inspiration from classical mythology – namely the stories of Dionysus and Apollo – as well as the artist’s subconscious. “I have always painted in order to understand the underlying forces that drive my thoughts, actions and vices,” Trate explains. “Painting is a way to render intelligible the emotional chaos of my existence.”

Across more than 12 new works, Trate conjures gender fluid figures both real and imagined, applying handmade oil paint through various techniques, including brush and palette knife, as well as with fingers wrapped in turpentine-dipped cloths. The results defy easy categorisation; their elongated bodies and striated faces owe much to 20th century modernism, whilst their palette is reminiscent of contemporary figurative painting. One thing is certain: their eyes are piercing, holding the viewer’s gaze.

The Dionysian Kid, curated by Tim Goossens, Associate Director of Academics at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, demonstrates Trate’s strong understanding of colour and shape. Each figure is made up of interlocking geometric forms, positioned against block-toned backgrounds. These are works that make you think and feel; they are a reflection of humanity’s beauty and imperfections.

On an innovative online platform, audiences can embark on the aerial tour of Trate’s East London neighbourhood before flying, via drone, into his studio. Users can then navigate high-definition pop-ups of each portrait, revelling in their rich, vibrant and haunting aesthetics.