Samuel Staffan: Step Out Of My Heart And Be Under The Great Sky.

M+B is pleased to present Step Out Of My Heart And Be Under The Great Sky., an exhibition of new works by Samuel Staffan. This is the artist’s first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition opens on April 27 and will run through June 22, 2024, with an opening reception on Saturday, April 27, from 6 to 8 pm.


Samuel Staffan’s paintings explore the interplay between the self and nature. They capture the spiritual longing to transcend beyond the self, particularly through the lens of nature. The works focus on the sense of the sublime, but in a meaning beyond the Romantic's focus of awe and terror where they often captured figures in expansive terrains such as in Caspar David Friedrich’s famous Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. Instead, Staffan approached the sense of the sublime in nature from a different perspective, often his landscape paintings lack a horizon line and he captures small moments within nature that are from a close and intimate perspective. When painting the works, each starts with bright base layers and builds to darker hues, with light percolating through, creating ethereal and cocoon-like effects. 


In Step Out Of My Heart And Be Under The Great Sky., a line from the Rilke poem Lament, Staffan creates a cyclical narrative through natural landscapes in his quest to surrender the human sense of being and allow oneself to be transcended by nature. The starting point for this cycle is The Lunarium, inspired by an ancient tool for measuring lunar phases, uses the moon as a symbol to explore human attempts to comprehend the natural world. Staffan captures the moon with a surreal intensity, its otherworldly colors suggesting both its unreachable mystique and its pervasive influence on humanity’s psyche. The painting serves as a metaphor for the elusive nature of understanding and the human quest for meaning through the natural symbols surrounding us.


In the middle of the cycle there is In the Field Where I Fell and Seeding the Sky. In the Field Where I Fell places the viewer directly within the scene—fallen, perhaps overwhelmed by the vastness of nature, yet intimately connected to it. The title draws inspiration from the final line of Louis Gluck’s poem Witchgrass, the painting pivots around the transformative power of nature and the intense, sometimes overwhelming experiences it can offer. It suggests a narrative of spiritual awakening and personal introspection, framed against the backdrop of the natural world. Seeding the Sky offers a ground-level gaze that immerses the viewer in a quasi-bug-like perspective, suggesting a profound connection to the earth and its sprawling vistas. It invites you to lie back and absorb the world from the grass roots, literally and metaphorically.


At the end of the cycle is The Cloud of Unknowing, titled after a writing of Catholic mysticism from the 14th century. The text suggests that the divine can’t be grasped, it is only in moments when you surrender yourself and let the divine wash over you that you can become closer to it. In the painting, the moon peeks out from behind cloud cover, illuminating the sky, as if it could quickly become completely hidden if you were to turn away. It thematically pairs with The Lunarium and it nods to the logical human quests of reason. It invites the viewer to leave reason and self behind to fully embrace the celestial, bringing the cycle of sublime discovery full circle. 


Samuel Staffan (b. 1998, Russia) was raised in rural northern Michigan and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. Recent solo exhibitions include Imagined History, curated by Monica King, Antrainq Gallery (NYC); and Eternity in an Hour, Antrainq Gallery (NYC). Staffan’s work has appeared in group exhibitions at Monica King Contemporary, MePaintsMe, and Hunter College. He has recently collaborated with painter Joshua Hagler, creating the sound installation for Joshua Hagler, Nihil I: I Would Not Speak of the Mountain, Nicodim (LA). Samuel lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.