My Thoughts on August

Fourteen years ago I was introduced to August and his work by our mutual friend Vita Zaman. Some friends and I were putting on a show in London called “100 Mothers” in which we gave 50 male and 50 female artists the same sized canvas and asked them to paint a picture of their mum on it. Vita told me she thought August would be a good artist to ask and he was.  August’s contribution to that show was a painting that, like all his other paintings, was as unique to him as his fingertips. The 100 Mother paintings have been exhibited in all sorts of ways and in different locations; each time the paintings are installed we try to make it as different from the last time as possible. However, wherever we put August’s painting it’s always impossible to ignore and it always sticks out a mile because it's painted in such a bold way.  

A short time ago August sent me some jpegs of the paintings that are in this book that you’re currently holding in your hot little hands. He asked me if I’d consider writing a few words. I decided I’d ask my friend Phil King who is the editor of Turps Banana – a magazine devoted entirely to paint and painters, if he liked them. Phil said:   

"I do like them. I’ve a really long term fandom of Milan Kunc and these reach towards something of his appeal for me… a kind of 'modern art’ that picks up on Le Douanier Rousseau influence in Modern Art - seen in Leger, Picasso etc. Bright ‘utopian’ colour. Very legible. A sort of ‘light touch surrealism’ where fantasy interacts with realism. I like the way they evoke Socialist Realism but link it with Abstraction within a quirky personal vision, they do it quite subtly and wryly to my eye, nothing is overstated. Art takes its place depicted as part of everyday life. 
The range of markmaking and painterly approaches feels wide and inclusive, there are lots of different textures and gestures implied in paintings that at first might appear to be a bit flat, whose aim seems to be a certain flatness. Such painterly complexity gives a compelling sense of richness I think.  In terms of potential if I were a curator I’d have these displayed in relation to Jeff Koons work. New light would be shed on Koons and the ambition of these paintings would be revealed too."  

Very recently I organised a group show in an English seaside town called Whitstable. August was one of the artists I asked to participate in the exhibition. The show took place in a gallery run by an architect called Bob Mumby. I spoke to Bob about August as we unwrapped August’s contribution to the show which was a painting called At Brighton Beach. Bob said he liked the painting because the viewer is part of a vaguely ridiculous moment in time that captures the playfulness of a holiday and relatives doing silly things in silly clothes. He added that it was a scene he could relate to very easily. I also relate to a lot of the situations and scenes you find in the work but I don’t think that’s the reason I appreciate August’s efforts.  

What’s important to me is that because I’m a painter myself - I sometimes need to see art that makes me want to go back to the studio and make work of my own. I find August's paintings inspiring in that way. His paintings give me food for thought and make me want to create something myself. Someone once said that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I see August the man and his paintings as being unique and charming. He often paints "everyday" people doing "ordinary" things but the end result is often curious or slightly troubling. Artist friends have told me August's work brings to mind great artists of the past such as Malevich, Rousseau, and Leger. Maybe it's too early to say if August is great artist or not? His story and journey are far from over but I like to think that one day his paintings will be exhibited in the world's best galleries.  

Harry Pye is a writer, curator and artist based in London