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Georg Baselitz: Sofabilder / Sofa Pictures

24 May 2022 - 3 September 2022



White Cube Hong Kong is pleased to announce ‘Sofabilder / Sofa Pictures’, an exhibition of recent paintings and drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz that give new and haunting form to his lifelong quest to unite abstraction and figuration in an inextricable dance. A nude female form based loosely on Baselitz’s wife Elke, whom he’s depicted throughout his career and now conjures from memory, is a central motif in each work.

Pablo Picasso’s 1942 painting L’Aubade (The Serenade) is among the inspirations for Baselitz’s images. Based on Titian’s 1538 Venus of Urbino, Picasso’s odalisque is a highly abstracted female figure reclining on a couch while being serenaded by a lute player. References to the Spanish artist appear in the playful titles of paintings, such as Woman and the Congo Mask (2021), and in the guitars that appear in a number of the untitled drawings. Additionally, Picasso was an unsparing observer of the aging process, which is an overarching theme in these and many of Baselitz’s recent works.

In Baselitz’s paintings, figures are rendered in white and float on their sides on rectangular black backgrounds. Some are set in rudimentary architectural spaces demarcated by white lines, others in an inky void. To make them, Baselitz used a monotype process. First he painted an image of a standing or sitting figure on a canvas and then placed another canvas on top of it, applying pressure with the back of a push broom to transfer the wet paint from one surface to another. Often used by the Surrealists, this technique introduces elements of chance to the final image and here lends a ghostly, skeletal quality to the figures. Rendered in quick, oftentimes translucent strokes of white paint, they call to mind X-ray photographs or cadavers on display in glass coffins.

The drawings, created by dancing lines of red and black India ink, also feature female forms floating in the horizontal plane, but some of these ‘Elke figures’ are accompanied by images of the artist himself. Set in schematic rooms containing a rectangular couch or bed, their loose, expressive compositions are punctuated by dots, from which trail blood-like rivulets of ink.

Although the subject matter of the canvases and works on paper calls to mind memento mori – skulls and degenerating bodies – Baselitz’s painted and drawn marks vibrate with their own painterly and graphic life. This paradoxical effect is testament to the artist’s exceptional skills and inventiveness, as well as to his fearless determination to grapple with the problem of mortality – his own and that of his loved ones.


24 May 2022
3 September 2022
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