exercises

 images and text

 

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P1020703aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020753aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020749aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020636aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020631aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

 P1020634aImages courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

Exercise as an activity that aims to improve physical, technical or mental performance is not immediately associated with the practice of painting. It is foremost repetitive – mindlessly so – and despite Duchamp’s well-known phrase “stupid as a painter,” painters do not like to think of themselves as stupid. Nevertheless exercise also demands a deeper understanding of the activity requiring improvement and here lies the question behind the exhibition: what can be exercised in painting? What must be determined before embarking on a future exercise programme?

The exhibition “exercises” brings together two artists, Jenny Forster (b. 1979, Germany) and Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, Harrogate, England) precisely because they take these questions as a starting point for their practice. Both painters produce their abstract compositions analytically, breaking down painting to its constituent components before exercising them separately. For the exhibition Mary Ramsden shows a series of smaller works on panel together with one small canvas. These consist of as little as one or two black marks, some partially erased, hovering above a sweep of off-white glossy paint. Her work’s characteristic tension between doing and undoing is created through the slightest of shifts in intensity or scale. In contrast, Jenny Forster works with a much wider range of elements. Her three large paper pieces include multi-coloured ink swirls, dramatic cuts and smudges of pastel. Unlike Ramsden, Forster also engages with painting’s capacity for illusion, treating the traditional perspective of her sources as yet another element in need of potential exercise. She does however share Ramsden’s concern with the processes of doing and undoing, often wiping or cutting away painted elements to reveal the ground underneath. Ramsden might cut out and paste a single black piece of paper; Forster carves up and recombines large parts of her work. If the ink swirls and watercolour drips of Forster’s pieces seem almost accidental this collage technique lends the work control. The need for control is also present in Ramsden practice, but here it is more apparent in the repetition of certain elements and gestures.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2017

 

Save the date: New show coming up on the 16th of June!

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GiG Munich is delighted to present “Exercises,” an exhibition that brings together new work by two painters, Mary Ramsden and Jenny Forster.

Taking their abstract compositions as a starting point, “Exercises” attends to the different ways these two painters build up a practice over time. It sets up a dialogue between the works to note how these developments may occur.

Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, Harrogate, England) presents a series of smaller works on panel, where each mark made and cancelled counts towards the creation of a tension between doing and undoing. In contrast, Jenny Forster’s (b. 1979, Germany) larger, more exuberant works on paper enjoy the drama of each swirl of ink, sudden paper cut and smudge of pastel.

EASY images and text

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The exhibition was not meant to be called “EASY.” As is often the way, it started with the opposite idea. At the time I was reading Deleuze’s late essay on Beckett, “The Exhausted,” and wanted to do a show, which would make use of its definition of the image. “It is extremely difficult to make a pure and unsullied image, one that is nothing but an image,” writes Deleuze and seeing the late Beckett plays I could believe this was the case. “Of course it is not easy to make an image…”

As all four artists – Jonah Gebka, Hannes Heinrich, Steffen Kern and Janka Zöller – work with images, Deleuze’s definition seemed appropriate. Things changed after I visited them in their studio. We were talking about the possibilities available to contemporary painting and I gave the example of Gerhard Richter – how at the time, to do both, abstraction and figuration, was a challenge that filled him with anxiety. To which Janka replied, “What, only two? Bah!”

Painting now is not difficult in the same way it was 40, 30 or even 10 years ago. Opening up to new possibilities, expanding some pre-conceived notion of what painting might be, what it might do in a contemporary critical context no longer holds the same kind of urgency. And if not, if painting is no longer defined by that kind of hardship and struggle, it would seem painting must be easy instead.

In various ways, Jonah Gebka, Hannes Heinrich, Steffen Kern and Janka Zöller acknowledge this lack of anxiety in their work. For them the fact that painting might seem easy is a strategy, offering a means with which they can engage with the viewer.

Jonah’s work is about surface. Through a variety of means (digital manipulation, engagement with printing processes, the use of mixed media) he makes the surface of the image, specifically its physical aspect, apparent to the viewer. For GiG, he shows a watercolour on paper, stretched around its wooden frame. The image is of a generic blue and white checked deck chair, like those found around pools in holiday resorts around the world. Yet the image is not found, but carefully constructed by the artist.

Janka’s interest lies in contemporary cultures, both high and low, traditional and post-digital. For her current project – and she has many – Janka combines lyrical, Matisse-like abstractions with paintings of eyes taken from her Instagram selfies. Always starting from scratch, always on the move, she paints with restless energy, quickly and directly. The two components of her work, abstraction and figuration, sit next to each other without speaking, never coming together to form a coherent whole.

Hannes works with painting’s capacity for illusion. At its most basic, a grey patch can be a shadow; a few crisscrossing lines make it clear that one lies on top of the other. Is it surprising how little it takes to produce the impression of an endless sunset? He paints wooden frames around his paintings and uses paintings of wood to make sculptures. But unlike the mythical Parrhasius he never tries to trick the viewer into believing that what he sees, might be real. For Hannes, illusion is something very obvious and in its obviousness, intimidating.

Steffen likes to transform one visual register into another, often changing the original narrative along the way. For his drawing “O.T.” he takes a performance by Ana Mendieta and describes it in a few lines of text, referring to the filmed nature of the piece through the introduction of VHS type glitches. In “Props” he takes some tools he found abandoned in an attic and covers them in black paint. They now exist in a no-man’s land, never quite achieving their fictional potential because never quite losing their status as useful objects.

Magdalena Wisniowska, 2017

Save the date: EASY opening on the 28th of April!

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Over the years painting has been many different things. Painting had meant something; it could do things. It was utopian in its aspirations. Then painting was dismissed as elitist and patriarchal. There was the death of painting and its inevitable return. Good painting, bad painting, painting that could be critically viable, provided it tests the limits of representation. What painting was not, was easy. The painter and his struggle was a dominant 20th century narrative, clearly manifest on canvas, visible for all to see.

For the group of young artists participating in EASY, Jonah Gebka, Hannes Heinrich, Steffen Kern, Janka Zöller, the challenge is different. Their effort goes into removing all traces of worry from the pictorial surface, so that painting becomes, quite suddenly, easy. “Easy” is their strategy, their way into painting. It is also a way in for us, painting’s audience, to discover what painting might be.

inorganic landscape – images and text

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“Organic” in its current usage tends to be associated with organic farming, pesticide and chemical fertilizer free – the equivalent German term would be the familiar “bio” from the “bio” supermarket range. Food here is produced organically, meaning that it stays true to its biological origin. Organic is, chemically speaking, carbon-based.

Etymologically however, “organic” derives from the Greek “organikos” meaning “relating to organ or instrument.” An organic landscape is a landscape, which is organised. The natural environment surrounding us is a consequence of human activity, whether this is farming, building, mining etc. But the concept itself refers to a construction. Landscape as such is always constituted through a prior representation. There are picturesque landscapes or sublime ones. Landscape consists of a specific format, with a horizon, back- and foreground and certain distinguishable features. An inorganic landscape would be one that lacks this kind of organisation. It would somehow be free of human activity, both physically and conceptually. In an extreme sense, it would be non-biological, without animal or plant matter. It would also present a challenge to the relation we establish with it. Without the structure landscape offers, nature becomes something we cannot relate to.

The three artists GiG presents as part of the current exhibition, inorganic landscape – Stefanie Hofer, Rebecca Partridge and Miriam Salamander – work with this constructed sense of landscape, often employing traditional techniques to make its mediated nature more apparent.

To produce her etchings Miriam Salamander, first disassembles her chosen environment (in this case, the fields and meadows of southern England) into its constituent components (field, line, path, plant) to then reconstitute them in an idealised form. The etchings are both minimal and matter of fact, consisting of the least amount of mark making required to produce the landscape form.

Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints of classical and modernist gardens take a highly idealised vision of nature and manipulate it further. For GiG she has made two new prints, based on found images of the “El Cabrío” gardens, part of the larger El Pedregal development in Mexico City by Luis Barragán. The gardens were designed according to modernist utopian principles, enclosed spaces where one can retire and enjoy nature. In Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints this harmony of the natural and the manmade becomes darker and foreboding, dismissive of utopian claims.

Rebecca Partridge has a longstanding interest in synaesthesia as a means of relating to the outside world without recourse to representation. Watercolour landscapes of trees painted at a specific time and location are to resonate with ceramic abstract sculpture, producing a constellation of different stimuli. The experience the work demands is no longer bound to representation, but allows for a zone of mimetic relationality, where mimesis becomes a form of collusion with nature.

Both Miriam Salamander and Stefanie Hofer are Munich-based. Rebecca Partridge is a UK artist, currently living and working in Berlin.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2017

Save the date! New show opening on the 10th of March!

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The growing impact of human expansion on fragile global ecosystems is a well-established if not universally acknowledged 21st century concern. The opposition is a familiar one: on the one side, man with his polluting industries, and on the other, nature, unspoilt and pure. However, as already Adorno pointed out, this antithesis of technique and nature is a crude one. Nature, which has not been pacified by human hand – alpine moraines or inorganic outer space – looks precisely like the polluted landscape of industrial debris that is so repulsive to us. Landscape is a construction, organised and codified.

Stefanie Hofer, Rebecca Partridge and Miriam Salamander are three artists, who work in the landscape tradition, accepting that since the early 19th century discussions of the picturesque, culture has provided models of how we view and present our surrounding environment. In their work, they try to make the constructed nature of landscape apparent to the viewer. Central to their practice is the use of traditional technique: ceramic, watercolour, etching and aquatint. At a time when human progress harms as much as it assists nature, their exhibition, “inorganic landscape,” recognises the power these techniques hold.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2017

 

Das zunehmende Einwirken der menschlichen Expansion auf die fragile globale Umwelt ist ein wohl etabliertes, wenn auch nicht allseits anerkanntes Problem des 21. Jahrhunderts. Die Gegenspieler sind uns vertraut: auf der einen Seite der Mensch und seine verschmutzende Industrie und auf der anderen Seite die unveränderte und reine Natur. Jedoch führt diese Antithese von Technik und Natur, worauf bereits Adorno hinwies, in die Irre. Die Natur, die nicht durch die menschliche Hand besänftigt wurde – alpine Moränen oder der anorganische Weltraum – gleicht der verschmutzen Landschaft industriellen Abfalls, die wir so verabscheuen. Landschaft ist ein Konstrukt, organisiert und kodifiziert.

Stefanie Hofer, Rebecca Partridge und Miriam Salamander sind drei Künstlerinnen, die sich mit Landschaft beschäftigen und anerkennen, dass uns die Kultur seit den Diskussionen über das Pittoreske im 19. Jahrhundert Modelle zur Verfügung gestellt hat, wie wir die uns umgebende Landschaft sehen und präsentieren. In ihren Arbeiten versuchen sie die konstruierte Natur der Landschaft für das Auge des Betrachters wahrnehmbar zu machen. Im Fokus ihrer Praxis stehen dabei traditionelle Techniken: Keramik, Aquarell, Radierung und Aquatinta. In einer Zeit, in der der menschliche Fortschritt die Natur gleichermaßen schädigt wie fördert, zeigt ‘inorganic landscape’, welche übermittelnde Kraft von diesen traditionellen Techniken ausgeht.

Translation by Nadja Gebhardt 2017

STEFAN LENHART, fruits of the dawn, first pictures and press release

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The landscape Stefan Lenhart constructed for GiG Munich could be described as a landscape of the mind. There is a path winding down the middle of the room, lit up on either side by brightly coloured lamps. The path leads up to a large mirror, which is framed by white acrylic columns. We see that the lights are also made of a similar acrylic material, painter’s palettes, that the artist cut up and then reassembled into a jagged spiral shape. The wall to the right is papered over, covered by large printouts of the same painter’s palettes in close-up. Dotted around are small, abstract paintings.

To go down the path marked out for us is to follow a narrative. We are asked to wonder down the length of the room, to pause at the points of interest, and then to stop when confronted with our own reflection and the room behind us. The random patterns on the lamps, the paintings and the posters are designed to capture our attention and allow our mind to drift.

The work has surrealist qualities, in that it shares surrealism’s interest in psychoanalytic concepts – like the unconscious or the expressive power of dreams. It lends itself to André Breton’s definition of surrealism as psychic automatism, as it incorporates into its structure the two means for capturing psychic processes: automatic writing and the irrational narrative of the dream. The uncontrolled production of Stefan Lenhart palette paintings is comparable to the meandering lines of Masson’s automatic drawings; the physical landscape Lenhart constructs, dreamlike, full of symbolism waiting to be uncovered.

But “fruits of the dawn” should not be seen as a historical anachronism. As much as the work shares surrealism’s interest in psychoanalytic concepts, it is very much post-Freudian, anti-oedipal in the sense of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Stefan Lenhart sets up a surrealist narrative in order to disrupt it. He shows its version of the unconscious is as tightly constructed as the controlled, conscious domain of reason. So the path we are meant to follow, is broken up; the lamps, instead of guiding us, distract and frustrate, providing insufficient light to see the paintings; and the destination too, the large mirror in which we see our reflections, is a kind of dead end. All we can do is turn around and walk back.

As the random configurations of paint on the wall and on the lights signal, to step onto the path Stefan Lenhart sets out for us is to enter a very different kind of unconscious space, one that Deleuze would compare to Murphy’s mind, Murphy being the central protagonist of Beckett’s same-titled 1936 novel. When the preconceptions constraining our understanding of the unconscious, are done away, nothing other than the “darkness of absolute freedom” remains. Here forms are in continual flux – commotion – with no principle to guide their actions. Through this ever-changing darkness, we can only travel, mere motes or points on the “ceaseless unconditioned generation and passing away of line.”

Magdalena Wisniowska 2016

STEFAN LENHART, fruits of the dawn

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Eröffnung: Freitag 9. December 2016, 18:00-21:00 Uhr

Austellungdauer: 9 December 2016 – 13 Januar 2017

Finissage: Freitag 13. Januar 2017, 8:00-21:00 Uhr

GiG Munich is happy to present “fruits of the dawn,” the latest installation by Munich based artist and curator, Stefan Lenhart .

Stefan Lenhart, born 1969, graduated from the Academy of Fine Art, Munich in 2007. Since then, he has exhibited widely in Germany and abroad, most recently “Anthophobia” at the Artothek, Munich, 2016. The extensive catalogue “M.A.D.” of his work was published by Distanz in  2012. He is also founder of the project space, “Tanzschule projects” which ran from 2007-2012.

His work consists of large-scale installations that use references to the historical avant-garde – modernism and surrealism – to produce new meaning. Taking a holistic approach, he combines painting, sculpture and other modes of presentation in ways that are simultaneously theatrical and conceptual, unexpected and strange.

At GiG Munich, Stefan Lenhart presents a new series of light pieces. Constructed out of  used painter’s palettes, cut and arranged in the same asymmetric spiral shape, this new work plays with ideas of order, chance, destruction and creation.