Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on March 7, 2015 of Gama: Idylls of the Kings. GAMA was born in Mongolia in 1977 and currently lives and works in Berlin. Gama was born into a nomadic family and would move every four months as the seasons changed. His great aunt was an important shaman whose ability to connect with the supernatural world had a profound impact on the young boy. He eventually enrolled at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing where he studied oil painting. Finding that the prevailing academic approach did not satisfy him, he started looking at the works of European Old Masters in art books and pondering the works of contemporary German painters such as Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter.
Thus Beijing was a brief hiatus between the country of his birth and Germany, the European country which seems to have the greatest affinity with the mysterious and uncanny, the birthplace of countless myths and legends not to mention the Brothers Grimm whose fairy-tales still enchant. In 2002 he gained entry to the Karlsruhe Academy and in 2007 became a master student under Gustav Kluge. During this period he was exposed to the figurative painting of the New Leipzig School and soon found that the painterly skills and techniques he had mastered in Beijing could be used for entirely different ends than the more prosaic task of recording appearances.
When we look at Gama’s paintings we are never allowed to forget that an oil painting is just that – oil paint squeezed from a tube and applied thickly or thinly on a primed canvas. Very often the main image which does not quite reach the edge of the canvas is surrounded by a thick layer of paint, leaving the impression that it could be peeled off to reveal a blank canvas. Elsewhere, dripping accumulations of paint question the illusion of three dimensional spaces.
Scale is constantly called into question and inside becomes outside. Mushrooms the size of trees dominate Manoeuver, while in others furniture towers over human figures or vice-versa. Figuration disrupts abstraction as we see so often in the Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles series of paintings in which there is always a contrast between the sky and the land, one of which is conveyed as a passage of abstract painting that echoes Gerhard Richter while the other is represented naturalistically. A dramatic example of this device can be found in Armored Car which is divided into four zones – a lonely traveler in the lowest zone, a band of clouds in the next followed by a range of mountains and a cheerful checkered sky into which a tiny lamp hangs from the top edge of the canvas.
Mushrooms, manikins and other low-life characters also meet high culture as Gama has a strong attachment to a broad cross-section of Western Old Master and Nineteenth century painting. The attentive viewer has no trouble in identifying references to Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Courbet among many others in these quirky interiors. Not surprisingly, German Romanticism is very much in evidence. Caspar David Friedrich’s great masterpiece The Sea of Ice (1823-24) is revived in Sacred Flame, the frozen wastes of the original parting to reveal a colorful shipwreck in the bottom right-hand corner of the painting.
All of this might be too much to take were it not for the fact that Gama’s erudition is only one component of his thoroughly enchanting update of the world of the imagination that used to prevail before the universal acceptance of computerized fantasy. He is no longer a nomad but he offers insights into the world of the imagination that his previously unfettered way of life offered in abundance.