Optic Nerve


For this alluring, transitional follow-up to his outstanding debut at this gallery three years ago, Karel Funk, 36, who lives and works in Winnipeg, continues his attempt to ravish the eye with his hyper-realist paintings. As with his debut, this exhibition—somewhat disappointing though still impressive—is composed entirely of images of young men outfitted in contemporary dress. In the two best paintings, Funk’s males are situated so that we can see their faces, although each has his eyes closed. These paintings radiate exile and are rife with feelings of concealment, isolation, shyness, and shame, as well as the mysteries of the inward-turning Buddha.

Funk’s rendering of synthetic fabrics and plastics already makes him a Robert Ryman of Gore-Tex, hoodies, headphones, and windbreakers. Three big changes are evident in his new work. The paintings are slightly larger, the color range is narrower, and more figures are have their backs to us. Unfortunately, this results in a troubling loss of psychological and visual density. The hallucinatory hyper-lucidity that formerly triggered off an almost unbearable optical alertness, and made it feel as if our eyes were on amphetamines, is now being neutralized by the expanses of white.

Still, Funk is an amazing painter. His techniques and how his figures are posed restage what a painting actually is. Just as his figures turn away from you and are unaware of your presence, so all paintings are inanimate, and in that sense turned away from you. Just as these young men seem to be in an indeterminate philosophical and private space, Funk’s paintings make you feel that way about the space you inhabit.

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