Spotlight: German Artist Alexander Basil’s Surrealist Self-Portraits Mix Humor With Hope in a Berlin Show

With a signature flat-plane painting style, Basil's evocative compositions push the boundaries of reality.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

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What You Need to Know: On view through October 28, 2023, Galerie Judin of Berlin is presenting the solo exhibition “Alexander Basil: Tidings from the Orbit,” the artist’s first with the gallery. Originally from Russia, Basil (b. 1997) was largely raised in Germany, where he lives and works today. Comprised of 25 recent paintings, the works in the show illustrate Basil’s depictions and interpretations of everyday life—with a Surrealist and psychological twist. Basil’s paintings are self portraits of one kind or another, offering disorienting narratives through repetition, bodily transformation—including of gender reassignment—and interactions with seemingly commonplace objects. Accompanying the exhibition is the artist’s first exhibition catalogue, published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, which includes an essay by art historian Sebastian Preuss.

Why We Like It: Alexander Basil’s paintings present playful, sometimes haunting, glimpses into the artist’s milieu—both physical, showing vignettes from the artist’s home and studio, as well as psychological, through the humor-imbued, uncannily repeated main figure. Exploring the boundaries of his own visual lexicon, the boundaries between real and metaphoric art blurred, evoking 20th-century Surrealism. In one Untitled work from 2023, the photographs are depicted laying under detached limbs and body parts. Graphic without being gory in the least, the image operates as a visual interpretation of the multilayered and changeable nature of identity, both personal and perceived. In another composition, the figure is seen literally stepping out of a skin, with the soon-to-be-discarded flesh staring outward and meeting the viewer’s gaze. In the background, the same figure repeated stares at their own reflection in a mirror. The viewer is granted an almost overly personal glimpse at the artist’s own interrogation of self, while being reminded through the various gazes that they too are being perceived.

According to the Gallery: “The category of the surreal is not the master key to the paintings of Alexander Basil, but it plays an essential role in them. It is not hard to see that the painter in his visual world revolves around himself, his everyday life, and his existential experiences. There is the bald, round head, the narrow and penetrating eyes, the moustache and goatee, the hairy chest. This omnipresent figure is a type of painterly alter ego and the center of Basil’s visual world—a ‘prototype’ or ‘archetype’ as his self-portrayal has been aptly called. There is not one of his paintings that does not feature the naked man; this alone is statement enough. It’s as if he were saying: This is me; this is my body; this is how I perceive myself and the world. I delve into the depths of the facets of my existence and create a painted version to allow everyone to take part in it.”—Sebastian Preuss

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (Triptych) (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

Alexander Basil, Untitled (2023). Photo: Katrin Hammer. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Judin, Berlin.

Alexander Basil: Tidings from the Orbit” is on view at Galerie Judin, Berlin, through October 28, 2023.


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