Shay Kun‘s idyllic landscapes complete with their snowy mountains and winding rivers are unashamedly nostalgic. On first viewing, they seem to be hearkening back to German Romanticism and even further back to Neo-Classical longings for Arcadia, so full are they of serpentine squiggles, classical bridges and gently swaying trees. Yet the artist has been looking specifically to the American Hudson Valley School for inspiration – most notably to the works of Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt (who were themselves were influenced by the Italian and German schools).
If Kun (born Tel-Aviv, Israel, 1974) were to stop here, the work could lean dangerously towards a particular style of so-called ‘Sunday painting’ – all misty skies and gilt-edged trees. Instead the artist chooses to rudely interrupt the landscapes with dumped, wrecked cars, irresponsible tourists and inappropriate contemporary interventions into what was, one assumes, a previously unspoilt landscape.
There’s a self-consciousness to Kun’s style of painting that could make the work appear cynical, even distasteful, but it is held in check by the artists’ clear appreciation for the landscape and the richness it holds. In fact, the irony inherent in the work does more to prompt the viewer to question his response to nature and the world and to ponder his own responsibility towards it, as opposed to causing him to question the artist’s integrity.
There’s a growing trend in landscape painting today to marry the influences of some of art history’s great masters with contemporary blots on the proverbial landscape. While it could be argued that some of these artists are simply indulging in an unashamed longing for the past, it could equally be argued that their sense of impending doom of what will happen to out world if we don’t the start to take more care, could neither be more current nor more necessary. Kun sits firmly in this category. The work is thoughtful, provocative, compelling viewing and completely ‘now’. Sunday painting this isn’t.
To see more of Shay Kun’s work on Saatchi Online click here.