Celebrated Swiss painter Conrad Jon Godly brings the majestic Alps to London from January 25 with his first UK solo show, “To See Is Not to Speak” at Mayfair’s JD Malat Gallery.
The exhibition’s 15 extraordinary pieces expertly straddle both abstract and hyperreal, with realistic mountains that drip from the canvas.
Up close, viewers can enjoy Conrad’s thick and heavy impasto marks, with frosty oils mixed with turpentine and his trademark wide, sculptural brushstrokes. But step back, and you might be looking at a photograph, staring down a misty precipice or gazing up at snow-capped peaks.
The mountainous vistas surrounding Conrad as he grew up have become his muse, and he is passionate about conveying the essence of them, explaining, “My surroundings have a huge influence on me, artistically and personally. I don’t see myself as a landscape painter; I am interested in capturing the mood and feeling of light, or the reflection of the moon on snow.”
After nearly two decades as a successful fashion photographer, Conrad walked away from the jet set and the city in 2005, returning to his roots as a painter and the mountains of Chur, for more meaningful, meditative work, studying nature and using his understanding, combined with memory and imagination to bring it to life on his canvases.
“Only after closely watching and listening, can you understand your subject. And understanding is crucial to paint the subject well,” he added.
Conrad’s experience as a photographer is evident in his jarringly lifelike renderings of light interaction, spatial projection, and texture. But unlike the superficial and transient beauty of the fashion world he photographed, the powerful mountains represent imperishable and natural magnificence and spirituality.
He lives between his native Switzerland and Japan, where he learned the art of mindful appreciation, which had a huge impact on his art and inspired the title of the exhibition “To See Is not to Speak,” taken from Japanese author Kobayashi Hideo’s quote: “To see is not to speak, because words could distract your eyes.”
Conrad has a huge following in Japan, thanks in part to his fast and expressive brushstrokes, which are similar to calligraphy.
Music is an integral part of Conrad’s meditative painting process, setting the mood and tone. Each piece is completed within a day, with quick, energetic brushstrokes, and this exhibition of 15 pieces — ranging from 150 cm by 130 cm to 200 cm by 250 cm — took two months to complete.
The thick paint lends a powerful, 3D sculptural quality to the pieces, interacting with the light in the room, and allowing gravity to pull the oil into icicle-like drips at the base of the canvas.
JD Malat Gallery founder, curator, and world-renowned art dealer, Jean-David Malat, said, “The power that emerges from the textured canvases of Conrad Jon Godly’s works is unmissable.
“He takes us into his own world through his almost 3D paintings that open our eyes to much more than a mountain. You have to see his pieces in person to fully experience his emotional universe and appreciate the sheer quality of his works.”
Godly was born in Davos, Switzerland, and studied as a painter at the Basel School of Art from 1981 until 1986. He has exhibited all over the world, from Asia to Europe and has important collections at the Swiss National Bank, UBS Bank, Credit Suisse, Julius Bar Bank, and DAVOS Collection.
Malat will be taking Conrad to Mexico’s Zonamaco Art Fair in February. “To See Is Not to Speak” is on view through March 2, 2019, at Mayfair’s JD Malat Gallery.