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Chaïm Soutine at K20

Hans-Jürgen Hafner reviews Chaïm Soutine, Against the Current at K20, Düsseldorf. Hafner’s review highlights the uniquely visual nature of experiencing a Soutine painting.

“Encountering a work by Soutine,” Hafner writes, “you ‘see’ what you ‘get’ exactly by looking at it … a meager, lifeless chicken, hanging slightly aslant against some dark background, an uncanny hole opening up behind a morose brick wall at the left side of the painting. The work leaves open whether the chicken was just strangled or is already dead flesh. An uneasy composition, the picture would be easy to brush off as belonging to the tradition of a vain nature morte, painted with a heavy hand and a muddy palette. Delicacy – or the horror of detail – shows through bristling contrasts, with bright reds and pure blues standing against thick layers of paint. Notoriously hard to pin down in all its ambivalent material, visual, and symbolic effects, the paint here has been kneaded like dough to evoke elementary motifs, the chicken’s naked breast and grotesquely elongated neck framed by feathery wings, brick stones, and mortar. Their painterly treatment is equally clumsy and refined.”