16.41. - 24.2.2024
Pilar Corrias, London
“Conversation Galante” (GROUP)
curated by Craig Burnett

“Henning Strassburger, until this past year a painter of abstractions,  now portrays men at leisure, painting, cavorting: the artist’s alter egos in hot pursuit of honest pleasures. If the dimensions of the canvas define the bodies of his protagonists, the mark-making animates their inner lives.”

Text: Craig Burnett

A  group exhibition of works by Nina Chanel Abney, Ana Benaroya, Katherine Bradford, France-Lise McGurn, Sofia Mitsola, GaHee Park, Henning Strassburger, and Didier William.

Uuh my hands are melting I, 2023
200 x 130 cm
Oil on Canvas

Running across both gallery spaces, Conversation Galante brings together a diverse group of painters whose works celebrate conversation, playfulness and intimacy. Collectively, their paintings conjure an imaginary forum distinct from the politics of the city or the court, where gender, identity and societal roles are unfixed.

At the gallery’s Conduit Street space, artworks come together to create an atmosphere of liberation and joy, tapping into a pastoral tradition that hearkens back to Theocritus via Shakespeare’s As You Like It (c. 1599) and Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863). In Sofia Mitsola’s new body of work, including Jalousie (2023), the artist envisions an island nation ruled by women, where freedom is the norm, and eros and wit jostle for dominance. Growing up enthralled by comic book superheroes, Ana Benaroya adapts elements of that aesthetic – loud colours and bulging limbs – to summon her own world where women run amuck, have a blast, and flaunt their pleasure-seeking. In her painting Last Scribble #4 (2023), Nina Chanel Abney depicts figures naked and exposed, perfectly at ease while enjoying a picnic. Also influenced by cartoons along with the shapely forms of the Baroque, Didier William’s Joy is Flight (2023) depicts genderless figures in a gravity-free zone, pulsating with an inner light. The vivid, ebullient colour of Henning Strassburger’s Big Sunbather Alphakenny (2023) animates the inner life of the painting’s Rückenfigur.

Free conversation continues to echo through the Savile Row space, but the mood here is more intimate. For many years GaHee Park has struck a balance between lewdness, humour and elegance; her painting Drowned Thought (2023) features a woman staring into the distance, her beatific countenance mirroring the moon that shimmers across the sea behind her. The night sky also features in Katherine Bradford’s Stars in the Sea (2023), where her bathers wade in ‘outer space … buoyant and very relaxed’, while in Ana Benaroya’s Queen of the Night (2023) a flame-haired woman rides dark blue waves against the backdrop of a lively cosmos. A group of smaller works by France-Lise McGurn, Mitsola, Strassburger, Park and Benaroya hang together to conjure an implied dialogue among a group of diverse characters. The presentation concludes with a kind of apotheosis in William’s Redemption, Resurrection (2023).

The exhibition takes its title from Nicolas Lancret’s 1719 painting, Conversation Galante, which depicts a group of figures in a garden playing music, canoodling, gazing into one another’s eyes. The setting suggests that the group have drifted away from an oppressive chateau and its règles du jeu, finding a patch of land that reflects Vladimir Nabokov’s notion of ‘aesthetic bliss’: ‘a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.’ This exhibition looks to offer a similar space: an untamed garden where new relationships – among garrulous viewers, artists and paintings – might flourish.

Deconstructed Alphakenny, 2023
190 x 180 cm
Oil on Canvas