Death, decay and decomposition

One of George Eynaud’s works in the Siren series. Right: Dogs on Street (detail).

One of George Eynaud’s works in the Siren series. Right: Dogs on Street (detail).

Unnerving perhaps. Add a dash of brutal too. Yet nevertheless... disturbingly beautiful.

Death litters our roads, our TV sets... but does it litter our thoughts?- Lisa Gwen Baldacchino

Oxymorons are often fitting when faced with images which aesthetically appeal to the senses, yet whose subject matter seems to “jar” with their rendering.

Such are the mixed feelings viewers are confronted with when gazing upon the images comprising George Eynaud’s (formerly George Micallef-Eynaud) Dog City exhibition.

Images of death, decay and decomposition often litter the pages of newspapers. But how often are they the subjects of paintings? And how often is the author of those paintings a 20-year-old?

People may find it disturbing for one so young to be dealing with such “adult” subjects. I beg to differ. I find his work poignant and extremely receptive to our social context. Death litters our roads, our TV sets too, but does it litter our thoughts? Probably. Yet, we choose oblivion over acknowledgement; ignoring the splattered cat in the middle of the road or the hungry tramp on the sidewalk. We ignore Death. Until it comes knocking; until it is pasted in front of us in the guise of beauty, in the guise of art.

Having just completed a course in Fine Art at Mcast, Mr Eynaud’s handling of paint is almost akin to that of Jenny Saville – where raw bulges and rolls of fat are given an aggressive sophistication which is altogether captivating. Mr Eynaud’s painterly technique is, however, more calculated. I do feel that he is somewhat in transition – an in-between phase perhaps – one marked by the aban­don­ment of the abstract expressionist strength and force of line/brushstroke, in favour of a more delicate and disciplined approach. The direction his work is taking already shows a certain level of artistic maturity (one which should be decidedly emulated by his peers), albeit one, which foreseeably and inevitably, will alter drastically. For any budding collectors out there, don’t set your heart on any one stylistic idiom, you’ll only be disappointed.

I find that the Siren series works best. These three works, of rather small dimensions in comparison to the some of the rest, are the most stunningly executed. These oft indiscernible animals remind me distinctly of the biomorphic (and often androgynous) forms by Berlinde de Bruyckere, most especially those predominantly made out of wax. Dogs on the Street is also a commanding and powerful work – the composition working increasingly to its advantage.

Most of the works in this collection, with the exception of Pink Autopsy and Interior Study, possess a very similar, if not uniform palette. Cold and drab colours dominate, punctuated by small accents of warmth, denoting the expiration of life. Mr Eynaud’s palette is deceptively monochrome, yet close scrutiny of his surfaces reveal rich tones which aid in the formation of texture.

Despite the praise, I did feel the exhibition (and consequently the narrative) was somewhat disjointed, while the selection of works could have been tighter. The paintings depicting tattooed men (titled Tattoos and Skinhead Dreaming) seemed out of place with the rest of the series, despite them having a thoroughly enchanting and quasi Aboriginal appeal. One painting, Interior Study, clearly belonged to another period as well as a separate temperament. This was extremely evident in the handling of paint.

Also, the show seems to have been set up hastily, with one of the works not having been allowed to dry before being taken for framing. Nitpicking you may say? Hardly, I’d have to answer. A first solo show is a serious matter. Anyone in touch with the local art scene generally keeps an eye out for upcoming talent, especially if the talent in question comes with the Caruana Dingli stamp of approval.

Although some may find Mr Eynaud’s subjects hard to digest, his depiction of death and mutilation imparts a sense of latent nobility unto lifeless and defenceless creatures. So kudos to him for not having succumbed to the safe and wholesome subjects which so many others before, and undoubtedly after him, will resort and succumb to.

• Dog City runs at Lily Agius Gallery, 54, Cathedral Street, Sliema until September 29. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. and 4 till 7 p.m. Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. or by appointment.

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