I had the exquisite pleasure of visiting Sabiana Paoli’s Art Gallery recently for the inauguration of Robert Latos’ remarkable new collection, Perceptions. The Polish-born figurative painter is a graduate from Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts, and an ardent student of Italian Renaissance masters Titian (Tiziano Vecelli) and Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco). Robert was the first to greet me at the gallery, welcoming me to the exhibition in a nebulous accent that hinted at his Polish heritage, Venetian wanderings and his perfect ease in Singapore’s unique English-language purlieu. Robert is tall, lanky, with a poise that suggested calculated control of his faculties – a trait very obvious in his paintings.
I met art consultant, collector and gallery owner Sabiana Paoli later. Her work in bringing European art to Singapore has been beyond impressive, injecting into our artstream the likes of the very outré Andrea Baruffi (and his amazing adventures in hyperrealism), Antonella Da Lio’s charming pop art extravaganza, and the moving, existentialist portrayals of the many facets of feminine identity in Ludmila Kazinkina’s incredible The Abysses of Femininity. She was also instrumental in bringing Salvador Dali’s work to Marina Bay Sands last year.
We talked art, business and the colourful strands of conjecture that link the two. “I want to create an art community,” she told me. “Mix European artists with Singaporean artists.” Indeed, ‘collaboration’ is her go-to word, and the art pioneer is constantly on the lookout for local artists to embark on ground-breaking new projects with.
It was brilliant to watch Robert and Sabiana interact – theirs was not the impersonal patron-artist relationship that made art inaccessible and contrived at times. This felt like a collaboration, a project masterminded by kindred spirits, with the hopes of presenting it to other kindred spirits. The outcome did not have the feel of a commercial venture – it was art: pure, simple and from the soul.
Speaking to Robert Latos about Perceptions proved two things. Foremost was that this man is an old soul, his artistic focus set on the revered, timeless zeitgeist of the Italian Renaissance. It explained the immaculate gentlemanliness of his person – this is a dignified mind domiciled in a time and place free of Ford and mass production and Edison and capitalism. The crudeness of the paperchase had not tainted him. Globalization was inspiration – it was not a cubicle to which he lost his identity.
Secondly, he had a work ethic that informed his work. His oeuvres are characterized by extensive, detail-oriented technical research, studying the interaction between colours and different paints, and their effect on his medium (usually canvas). This willingness to invest his time and energy into his work was telling when he left his native Poland for Venice, a migration in the name of art. He studied Venice’s architecture, its environs and, very telling in his work, the chromatically resplendent nature of Venice’s light against the old world elements of the city.
The problem with figurative art has always been this: In the mimesis of its models, what do you paint as oil-on-canvas reproductions of reality, and what do you deform to give new form and tenor? As spectators of his art, we are observer and voyeur in equal amounts, and it is our reaction to the deformities, the subjects’ immature and premature nudity and intimacy that we are both privy to and disconcerted by, that reveal Latos’ exact consideration for this.
Robert is a figurative painter, living in an older world, and in the reality of now, silmultaneously. With Perceptions, he – forgive the pun – draws today’s realities into ancient, resurgent lights inspired by Venice.
To see more from Perceptions, visit Sabiana Paoli Art Gallery:
SABIANA PAOLI ART GALLERY
19 TANGLIN ROAD
TANGLIN SHOPPING CENTRE #01-25/26
Tel. +65 9093 5128