Paternal Milk: Manuel Forte

15 September - 18 November 2023

Manuel Forte's solo exhibition, Paternal Milk, is set to open during Berlin Art Week 2023 as part of a series of curatorial projects at Hua International's Siheyuan space. The exhibition will feature entirely new paintings and installations.

At its core, the exhibition explores the poetics of space, drawing on memories of childhood homes, and the poetics of relation, spanning cross-cultural and cross-generational connections. Forte himself stated, "The show is about family and parenthood," emphasizing the central role of familial bonds in his work.

Forte skillfully navigates the history of traditional painting, engaging in a captivating dialogue with the still life and landscape tradition. He infuses his creations with painterly gestures that create tension, unexpected compositional innovations, vibrant patterns, and a unique interplay of paintings within paintings, extending beyond the canvas into the exhibition space.


Forte's journey into parenthood resonates throughout the exhibition, with his daughter serving as a recurring theme at various stages of her life. His art becomes a canvas for capturing the essence of familial relationships and the transformative journey of parenthood. His bold use of colors, sketchy bodies, and moments of abstraction contribute to his remarkable world-building. The direct application of paint to raw canvas, with concise and descriptive marks, conveys the speed and vitality of his work.

At the heart of Forte's exhibition lies the concept of "home," both as a physical domestic space and an emotionally charged place. He explores the dichotomies of life, reflecting on the juxtapositions that shape his existence. "I think about the juxtapositions in my life," he explained, "my daughter's freshness and youth, the world's sense of wonder, and my solidity in providing structure. The same dynamics occur in the paintings, where these juxtapositions and opposites are essential."

Forte's paintings evoke a sense of magical realism, seamlessly blending everyday moments with fantastical elements. Water, a recurring motif, flows through his art, whether contained in a baby bottle holding a flower or cascading as a living room waterfall. Forte himself acknowledged that he enjoys playing with the tradition of painting.

In the painting titled "The Bathers," a more direct reference to Modernist depictions of the leisure class, such as Manet's "Le Bain," Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," and Gauguin's work, Forte's art reflects a deep engagement with art history. In this moment of the painting, an orgy of people are In flagrante delicto in an anarchist spiritual experience of sex on the beach, a scene that subtly challenges the Modernist obsession with the exotic and the primitive. Whereas German Expressionists often traveled to colonized regions to paint indigenous people, Forte, portrays his own lived experiences, blurring the lines between reality and art. He explained, "These colors are so vibrant that they can not exist in our world, but within the realm of these paintings, they feel as authentic as possible."


The exhibition also challenges conventional notions of art presentation. Forte recreates his studio, covering the walls with canvas to create a seamless fusion of painting and space. He challenges the traditional separation of figure, ground, and support by allowing his wall paintings to serve as both the foundation and the backdrop for his artworks. Forte's artistic journey delves into the themes of domesticity and fantasy, offering a profound reflection on how the spaces we inhabit influence the very essence of artistic expression. 

Through his art, Forte emphasizes the importance of the quotidian, shedding light on our emotional connections to family and friends. He elevates these relationships and the sentiments they evoke to the forefront of his artistic practice, inviting viewers to connect with the visceral and intimate aspects of human existence.

Installation Views