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The Art of Psychology

Alias Trate’s vivid, expressive paintings delve deep
into the human psyche – and you can experience them from home...

Great artists paint what’s in the mind. From Goya’s Black Paintings, carried out by an artist increasingly fearful for his sanity, to the fevered dreamscapes of Dalí, Miró and the Surrealists, to Rothko’s vast, plaintive canvases – are they horizons, doorways, graves? – there’s a long psychological art carving out a place in popular consciousness. You can add Alias Trate to this tradition. Trate, a Canadian artist working in Spitalfields, London, paints haunting, elegant canvases. And now, after his planned third solo exhibition, Technicolour Malaise, was postponed due to the global pandemic, Trate has taken the entire project online, turning his studio into an immersive virtual gallery.

A psychologist working in oils, Trate describes his work as “a raw channel to delve into my subconscious”. He has a preoccupation with eyes and the gender-fluid figures in his work fix the viewer with a type of mirada fuerte, the piercing Andalusian “strong gaze” that Picasso famously sought in his subjects. “I love observing how peo- ple’s characters are etched into their physical form,” says Trate. “From brooding shadows under eyes to subtle, nascent lines, born of joy and anger, to soft contours, the last fleeting traces of innocence.”

Trate, who posts on social media @aliastrate, began working in sculpture and woodwork as a teenager, arriving at painting later; still, figures in his painting look like they could have been carved from knots of driftwood. There’s just enough self-mythologising about him: like all good artists, he has a swaggering logo, which borrows from a coin of Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. Depicting a faceless bust, a nod to the artist’s anonymity, it’s inscribed with the Latin “Fortem, Immor- talem” (“strength, immortality”) and the Roman numerals MCMLXXIV, the year Trate was born. His work is held in private collections in Canada, Mexico, France, UAE and the UK and he himself is similarly international, having lived in Mali, the Alps, Argentina, Mexico and the UK. Otherwise, there’s little by way of biographical information about him.

Working under a pseudonym is a bold invitation to viewers and collectors to judge the work on its own merits. “I am a fairly private and solitary person,” Trate notes. “‘Alias’ picks up on that and also has an amusing, playful side to it.” All well and good – but judged by Technicol- our Malaise, his anonymity might be hard to maintain.