Robert Muntean’s paintings have an umbilical relationship to music. Just as the improvisatory quality of the music reveals an endless sense of possibilities, so does the artist’s paintings: Just as the music of the groups that crucially influenced his idea of art – The Early Jesus and Mary Chain, The Swans and Sonic Youth above all - oscillate endlessly between melody and dissonance, so do the artist’s paintings: Just as one has to work to enter into the sound world of the above mentioned bands, so with Muntean, who has no intention of un- folding a coherent narrative for the viewer to read, rather opening up his compositions to multiple readings.
The title ofthe exhibition comes from a song on the ‘Psychocandy’ disc and refers to the pure pleasure to be gained from entering his world with its richness of colours, lusciousness of paint and variety of brush strokes.
If his previous exhibition was rooted in a very painterly figuration where the complex layering of the rich gamut of colour took on the heritage of cubism, the next body of paintings was far looser and with a far more abstract feel, revealing Muntean’s desire at the time to almost rid of the idea of a subject. Often the areas of paint would be contrasted with bare unpainted areas of canvas. Although vestiges of the figure remained, this felt like a radical departure for the artist. The sense of a new kind of musical improvisation palpable. Gradually from that point of both a flirtation with abstraction and a freedom with space and paint, the artist’s ultimately profound allegiance to the figure began to return to prominence.
Just like Honey marks the return of the figure as an anchor. At times seen in the act of appearing, at others losing tangibility, Muntean’s figures blur into the background while at same time they emerge out of it. Far from portraying specific individuals, his paintings conjure up situations caused by the figures in a space. Human presence with all its inherent dynamism and swirling of energy and forces is transformed into form, color and paint. Multiple lines and movements intersect where harmony and turbulence dovetail, requiring alertness for composite content and a slow, thorough gaze.
The repetition of the same figurative motifs into what can be seen as an endless amount of variations on a theme brings back to Muntean’s interest on the sensation of painting and the joy of looking. Alike the man- ifold expressions generated by the same music played on and on, his works ponder on the idea of ‘sound’ of a painting.
Neither a political nor a social artist but rather a continuer of the great Austrian tradition from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, Muntean’s palette and the allegiance to the figure reminds of Moser, Gerstl, Kokoschka to name but a few. The expressionism of colours is in his DNA, yet his works are most clearly of our time.