It's All In Their Heads

Mariella by Pablo de Gortari

Mariella by Pablo de Gortari

Some Surrealist Escapism

Nordic winters can be brutal. No amount of hygge or mysighet is going to convince an international expat that November through to March is not uncomfortably bleak in Scandinavia. As the first Advent is now here, it is truly a time to escape inside, retreat into a good book or a good film, both preferably close to a blazing fire.

For the month of December we have escapism of a different nature at the Nordic Art Agency which might go some way to break the gridlock of grey and cold.

It comes in the form of our current figurative surrealist exhibition comprising of two international artists, one from Vienna and one from Mexico City. Josef Florian Krichbaum and Pablo de Gortari.

10,000 km separate these two cities and artists but location is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to their artwork and their own surrealist worlds.

Neither seem to paint with reality being a conscious factor. They both remain faithfully engrossed in their own portraits, landscapes or an assembly of adorning objects casting us wistfully away to all together different location. So why not leave reality for a moment?

The Day When He Felt Very Small by Josef Florian Krichbaum

The Day When He Felt Very Small by Josef Florian Krichbaum

Josef Florian Krichbaum’s work is of another time and place. As an artist he refuses to paint in a style, scale or genre which conforms to contemporary trends. His paintings are often small and with fine, delicate detail and his charcoal drawings are beautiful, geometric compositions. All originate from sketches or stories playing in his head of an unfamiliar reality. He is an unique artist remaining true to his creative direction, going against the zeitgeist. He continues to create small enchanting jewels of unique, almost otherworldly works of art.

Three Guard Sisters By Josef Florian Krichbaum

Three Guard Sisters By Josef Florian Krichbaum

Strange helmeted guards are frequently found in his paintings and drawings, alone or in groups and Krichbaum is unwilling or unable to say if they are blinded by blissful ignorance, arrogance or possibly stupidity? Perhaps a combination of all three? As award winning Austrian writer Franzobel wrote in his article on Krichbaum, Heavy Metal Biedermeier in 2014,

Caps covering the eyes and nose, that have something of feelers and antennas about them and that are also evocative of virtual worlds and the Google glasses. Perhaps these guardians are complete solipsists, autistic, living only in their own world? Aren’t we all wearing caps like them, making us think only of our careers and work? Caps stretching out feelers for recognition, while also keeping the world at bay? Or are they self-portraits of the painter, going through life with a paintbrush sticking out on either side of his head?



As an art historian I appreciate the storytelling, the irony, the social commentary, compositional perfection and the skill and draftsmanship of both his oil and egg tempera technique and charcoal work. He is complex yet comprehensible. The escapism is fluid and can be acknowledged by carefully reading the titles Krichbaum crafts or interpreting the work without any prompt, alone and uninterrupted.

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To juxtapose theses works, Pablo de Gortari’s surrealist portraits are free spirited and have no helmets or restrictions, but whether they will look you in the eye is an entirely different matter. Gortari’s Girls, like Krichbaum’s characters are unrelated to any reality. Gortari paints from his imagination and from an attitude or mentality, styled with influence of sixteenth century Spanish portraiture with a twenty first century edginess. Dogs, ponies, flowers, tattoos and an abundance of extravagant brightly coloured and coiffured bouffants adorn Gortari’s femme fatals. You may fall in love with one and very well be made to feel uncomfortable by another but each projects a sense of power, presence and most of all drama!

Gortari’s motivation to paint female portraits stems from his love of animation and fascination with facial expression. A surrealist Mona Lisa factor is ever present his work. Most of all they are frivolous, fantastical and fun. What’s not too like?

Sybil at Roche Bobois - L’arte de vivre by Pablo de Gortari

Sybil at Roche Bobois - L’arte de vivre by Pablo de Gortari

Escaping reality has always made my work strongly influenced by fantasy and mythical elements, a reflection of the constant search to find a place, being caught between worlds. 

The expression of the characters is my main focus, showcasing emotions and state of minds. The fantastical and mythical elements come together to tell the story behind them.  

Pablo de Gortari

So do visit us for some light relief from the driving rain and winds this December as we offer you paintings and sketches of pure playful escapism and characterisations of pleasure.

The Figurative Surrealist exhibition will run at the Nordic Art Agency until December 22nd.

Juliet Rees -Nilsson

Founder & Art Advisor