In recent years, we have been impressed and sustained by a number of encounters abroad with the works of Guy Yanai. It is with great pleasure then that we announce the first solo exhibition of Guy Yanai in Germany, after his successful exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, Paris and London.
The invitation image, a view of the poolside of the hotel La Colombe d ‘0r in St. Paul de Vence with its famous restaurant, is one of the mystical places of 20th century art. It has become an important milestone for art lovers on their travels. Opened in 1931 in the mountains of the Cote d’Azur, it soon became a popular place with artists who had a significant influence on the art of the 20th century. Besides Marc Chagall, who lived in the neighborhood, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Signac, Soutine and Léger were frequent guests. Later came famous celebrities like Sartre and de Beauvoir, Orson Welles, Brigitte Bardot and many others. This impressive collection of celebrities has brought an enduring allure to the place. The artists created unique commissioned works for the site that were acquired by the family that owned the hotel and some can still be seen there today. Works of art disappeared and have returned in a mysterious way. Their value has become such that often they cannot be insured in their original locations. All this brings about the attraction and the promise of participation for the visitor in a great past. The large Calder sculpture that appears in Yanai’s painting, one of his most famous mobiles, dates back to the early Fifties. It is placed by the pool and is often reproduced in photographs.
Upon asking Yanai about the subject matter, the artist replies with a kind of smile:“Vacations are almost better before you are actually on them, fantasy and the preparation are sometimes much more rewarding than the trip itself. Maybe this is the reason for the “mythical” hotel of La Colombe d’Or, which is certainly half a tourist trap, living off of the legend of artists. But when I saw that Calder there, I knew I had to paint it.“??Yanai’s motifs, which evoke realities that have never existed in quite this way, convey an ambiguous promise. More focussed than formulated, these are images of longing. They emerge from dream experiences of the artist – the exhibition title “Boy on an Island” refers to one such dream, or from found images. The individual iconography of Yanai does not include only elitist places like the Colombe d’Or but popular objects such as sailboats, which promise carefree leisure, or potted plants which enliven anonymous places as decoration, more or less successfully.
The closing remark of the above quotation from Yanai is not insignificant.”I knew I had to paint it.”, he says. We might conclude from it that Yanai thinks above all in colors. The use of intense color is counteracted by the controlled brushwork. It is this particular combination that lends the paintings their uniqueness. He applies the color “alla prima” in a continuous painting process. The brush is guided in the respective color fields as far as possible in parallel strokes. The paste-like oil paint throws a bead at the edges of the track which gives the resulting painting a relief-like surface and a somewhat tectonic quality. “Almost as if built with Lego bricks” – as a viewer naively but aptly noted. The tension between the provocative austerity of the brushstroke and the joyful promise of salvation of his motifs might appear jarring at first, but then dissolves as easily as a laugh eliminates tensions. It has been our experience that on engaging with Yanai’s work, a painterly ability is revealed that renders further comment unnecessary.
Text: CONRADS, February 2018