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Painting: Oil on Canvas.
Baroness Cat, oil, canvas, 60×60, 2011, Painting on canvas, canvas on stretcher, stretcher thickness of 2.5 cm, sides painted, can be exposed without a frame.
Eduard Zentsik is an exceptionally prolific Estonian-based artist of many faces. One might call him a greedy painter, as he is traveling quite a few creative lanes simultaneously, refusing to stick to a single signature style, technique, or theme; instead, Zentsik keeps confusing critics and audiences alike by choosing to explore all available options, exercise all styles, play diverse and almost conflicting roles.
Some of Zentsik’s endeavors, like the mildly macabre art brut series, focus on physical metamorphoses and flourishes of the flesh; others zoom in on the mysteries of the mind; elsewhere, the artist indulges in formless Pollockian color drippings or flirts with digital media. Hope for Love, his latest solo show, accentuates the spiritual aspects in Zentsik’s enormous oeuvre. Tied together with recurring themes and symbols, the collection presents 37 allegorical paintings made in the surrealistic canon.
Hope for Love captures a distinctly magical reality populated by gracious entities and precious objects. The scenes are static and peaceful, shrouded in dark ambience created by the palette of caramel and caked blood harking back to Renaissance masterpieces; the saccharine decor would be perhaps quite familiar to Vienna crowds. The entire universe of the series is feminine and deeply erotic, with no male figures to be seen. Flowers and jewels, birds and eggs, pups and bunnies—the inventory borders banal, but the images stand for something else, promising to unfold hidden meanings and clues.
Indeed, Hope for Love is highly symbolic. Zentsik’s paintings are trim and disciplined, low on noise; however, within the frame resides an open-ended space, where almost any artifact or concept, from any era or culture, may appear with a certain albeit enigmatic purpose. No mythology or esoteric teaching is immune to the artist’s tactful manipulations—Zen in Zentsik goes hand in hand with Tao, Krishna, Christ, and the Twelve Olympians. The eclectic mystical trappings seem to glorify life, with translucent eggs, lavish grains of red caviar, and lustful petals among the major motifs, while objects within objects apparently signify the fractal structure of the universe.
In Hope for Love, Zentsik confirms his reputation as an artist who mixes genres and media, playfully subverting the traditions of old. He deconstructs (and reinvents) the genre of landscape by placing images of nature inside female characters and random objects or projecting them onto virtual surfaces. His portrait of a haloed crinoline-clad cat of six eyes is a genial yet ironic comment on icon painting. As an appropriately mystical reference, more than a few times the compositions of artworks bring to mind Tarot cards where depicted occult characters peer into our reality from esoteric domains. However, Zentsik’s main daring lies in using self-aware decorative strategies and deceptively simple tropes to convey his big ideas—some will find his work pretentious.
This is not an intellectual game, though. Those willing to unlock the code are likely (and welcome) to reveal metaphysical depths. Hope for Love is a visual poem to the great God of Beauty Zentsik has worshipped in earnest for a long time. Behind the images, there is a powerful coherent cosmology explaining the underlying natural order, the ulterior essence of everything. This is true spiritual art with a transcendental message, ostensibly co-created and inhabited by the spirit of the Creation itself (all artworks have always existed, you know). Zentsik’s mission is to cut open two-way windows between our world and the fantastical realm through which mystical figures and phenomena on the other side meet our gaze. Could they be the proverbial Platonic ideas represented on canvas in vaguely familiar forms?
Hope for Love, therefore, is a slightly misleading title. Eduard Zentsik is not questioning the existence of Love—he knows it already exists. Everything to hope for already exists. Snap your fingers, wink, whisper a wish. Let yourself believe in the eternal, never-ending beauty, and let Hope be your guide to the whole world of love.
Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection