press release

The Franco-Russian artist Serge Charchoune, born in 1888, is often thought of as a minor painter who tried his hand at many styles. It would be more accurate, however, as his indefatigable advocate Merlin James has pointed out, to describe him as an unpredictable individualist who evaded or subverted classic Modernism, an artist who absorbed and adapted Modernist tropes, turning them into something unique and personal.

Charchoune was an odd man; his interests and obsessions, like his paintings, were somewhat contradictory. He was a misfit, a private and taciturn outsider who considered himself as much a writer as a painter; he was also deeply interested in music, synaesthesia, Rosicrucianism, and Dada. Despite his reputation as a recluse, he enjoyed the company and conversation of fellow artists and the Russian émigré community in Paris.

Marginalised in the history of art, partly because his work is almost impossible to characterise, it now transpires that his ideas prefigured many significant developments in contemporary image-making. Charchoune may not have minded his work's comparative invisibility, for he seems to have preferred to keep a low profile, but his achievements and singularity undoubtedly deserve much more attention than they have been used to. He was a rather extraordinary painter.

The exhibition was selected by Merlin James, who also contributed a text to the accompanying publication. The Douglas Hyde Gallery warmly thanks Merlin James, Charlotte Artus, and Kunstsaele Berlin for their support of the exhibition.