Basement Scene
Leo Arnold

Year: 2016
Medium: Oil on primed jute
Dimensions: 175 x 130 cm · 69 x 51 in

Reminiscent of cartoon vignettes, the painting sits in between the aesthetics of drawing ​and painting with its use of thick, bold outlines and free-hand, sketchy brushwork. The artist depicts what could be a decadent nightclub scenario, imbuing it with lechery, ​ribald humor and absurdity as he captures the antics of a host of grotesque characters. Few of the passers-by seem to notice the rotund guy dissolving in a mangle of squiggles into the up-turned thighs of some sort of cabaret performer.

Fish effortlessly swim about in the air, in pun-like jest with the dancer’s fishnets. A voyeur witnesses the scene from the foreground with unease: his head-turn caught in mid-motion, he looks back and forth simultaneously in janiform fashion. Most of the white-gessoed ground is left uncoated except for the dark, tall silhouette looming in the background, whose totemic appearance resembles either a tower-block or a pyramid of club speakers.

The predominantly cold, monochromatic scale, only disrupted by the top orange diagonal, also lends to the artist’s desire to emulate the aesthetic of drawing through oil paint. Preoccupied with themes relating to ​eroticism, taboo and violence, this painting may remind us of some of Beckmann’s or Ensor’s neo-expressionistic scenes.