Artists are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in myriad ways, attempting to make sense of a new world and way of living. A key example is Alias Trate, a London-based Canadian painter whose most recent works were made during lockdown.
Trate is interested in visualising the human condition, making haunting figurative paintings full of day-glo colour. Faces and bodies are abstracted through geometric brushstrokes – reflecting conflicted states of being in today’s world. These works are part of a new solo pop up show titled Zeus’ Bastards, opening in London from 1-3 October.
For Alias Trate, lockdown forced an intense period of introspection – resulting in this series of highly personal works. “There has been a steady removal of many superfluous elements in our lives,” he explains. “Like never before, we have had to come to terms with ourselves and have discovered in the lockdown a clarity of vision. We are complex emotional beings, conditioned by light and dark.”
Contrast is at the heart of the exhibition, which is inspired by Greek mythology. It refers to the relationship between two illegitimate sons of Zeus. Apollo, the god of the sun, symbolises pure form and rationality, whilst Dionysus, the god of wine and dance, is associated with chaos and passion. The opposition of virtue and vice has long been woven into Alias Trate’s work, which, after two decades, he has started to share publicly under a pseudonym.
The paintings are expressions of the artist’s innermost thoughts and psychology: fluid, expressive and defying categorisation.“My work is inherently subconscious,” he says. “It’s about expressing and affirming sensibilities, emotions and identities that would otherwise elude capture.” The figures Alias Trate conjures are both real and imagined, blurring the lines between fact, fiction and ideas of masculinity and femininity.
“I have always painted whenever I have felt the need to understand the underlying forces that drive my emotions, desires and actions,” Alias Trate explains. “Painting is a way to render intelligible and cope with existence.”