The celebrated Canadian painter Attila Richard Lukacs has seen some theatrical fluctuations over the course of his career—a sensational breakthrough into the art scene in the 1980s with his homoerotic paintings; a reputation as an enfant terrible; moves to Berlin and New York; a subsequent dropping of his dealers; and a short-lived, dark period of crystal-meth addiction—only to return to Canada and begin creating another huge body of work in Vancouver. For this show, the Art Gallery of Hamilton has been loaned more than 30 career-spanning Lukacs works from the collection of Salah Bachir, president of Cineplex Media and noted philanthropist and patron of the arts. Bachir, whose private art collection totals more than 3,000 pieces, writes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition that “this is my love letter to Attila. I think the rest speaks for itself.”
Indeed, the paintings do speak for themselves. A visit to the AGH shows Lukacs, with a classic 1995 painting like The lazy kunstler, and the well travelled monkey, taking the viewer into a realm that is disquieting yet lusciously rendered. Painterly technique and enigmatic subject matter combine in a telling self-portrait that pairs a dejected artist and a pompously civilized monkey. It is a work where the role of the artist is caught in the contradictions of a jaded social setting and personal Dionysian tumult.