proudly presents Soviet Series, the second solo exhibition by Erik
de Bree (1977, the Netherlands)
at the gallery. In 2019, De Bree was pointed to a Ukrainian
website where people offered rolls of vintage Soviet wallpaper from
the 1960s-90s. The artist
imported and then cut, folded, painted over and otherwise altered the
material to create these unique pieces. The soft colours and
elaborate designs inspired De Bree to apply different techniques than
usual, relying less on chance and working more deliberately. This has
resulted in contemporary pieces with a nostalgic twist; a surprising
yet fitting addition to his oeuvre.
When unpacking each shipment, De Bree was surprised by the intricate and luscious designs, which often imitate wood, fabric, tiles or embroidery. The paper might be cheap, but the wallpaper looks expensive. It was designed to liven up even the most humble of homes. During the Soviet regime, everything was meant to be universal, including wallpaper. People had the same interior decoration as their friends and neighbours. De Bree overturns this function completely: by manipulating the material and presenting framed individual pieces, he turns universal decoration into autonomous art.
The pieces in the Soviet Series invoke different senses of nostalgia to a bygone era. Someone from Ukraine will recognise the designs, but westerners may find the pastels and unusual patterns exotic. The imitated wood and flowers, on the other hand, are relatable to all. Imitation is always a big part of decoration, but also of art. Erik de Bree expertly moves between all opposites: the real and the fake, decoration and art, romanticism and reality.
The Soviet Series makes sense as a new step in De Bree's body of work, which always involves wallpaper in some way. There is a clear connection between projects, as he continues his playful research of material, structure, colour and technique with each new series. Even when his artworks don't involve wallpaper, like the acrylic paint on glass in his Patterns and IASPIS series, its patterns are always a source inspiration. Now, his perpetual fascination for wallpaper has taken him back to the material itself, and his playfulness is as evident as ever. As always, the viewer's curiosity is sparked: how did he do that? What exactly am I looking at?