I first encountered Attila Richard Lukacs work on the cover of Thom Gunn’s book of poems, Boss Cupid, and I quickly fell in love with the paintings of gay skinheads and military cadets he made while living in Berlin in the late 80s and 90s. These works take the conventions and concerns of old masters — think Rembrandt or Caravaggio — to create entirely contemporary paintings. Indeed, throughout his career, Lukacs has become a master of making reference to historical painting traditions — Western traditions, to be sure, but also visual conventions in Asian art — and ‘queering’ them. His artworks speak to history, but are thoroughly grounded in our modern sensibilities.
Beyond classical forms of painting, Lukacs masterfully employs other languages found in visual culture — mostly obviously, in his early work, he makes direct reference to the figure as it’s represented in gay porn — explicitly unpacking masculine tropes of fetishized body, the ritualized body and the militarized body. The juxtaposition of classical structures / techniques with figures from porn is a very direct way of understanding his ‘queering’ of painting.
Lukacs also is a master of using single words, short phrases, signage and symbols to created layered meaning. The monkey (or other animals), for example, reads often as a surrogate for the self or for the other tropes of masculinity that play in his work.
I feel a kinship with Lukacs, as the development of his paintings map over the trajectory of my own lived experience. While his preoccupations are different from mine, his paintings resonate with the terrain I’ve navigated as a queer man.
Wikipedia: Attila Richard Lukacs (born 1962) is a Canadian artist. He has painted large, figure compositions which feature skinheads and other men in buildings in Berlin where he lived before and during the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Herringer Kiss Gallery: Internationally recognized Canadian Painter, Attila Richard Lukacs was born in Alberta in 1962. In 1985, Lukacs graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. While still a student at Emily Carr, Lukacs and 7 other painters were selected for a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery titled The Young Romantics. The exhibition, curated at Scott Watson, focused on new young painters whose work was seen as the return of painting.