Diagonal

Andrea Hanak, Berthold Reiß

14.03 – 24.04.2020

P1030903i
Andrea Hanak, Berthold Reiß, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030905iAndrea Hanak, Berthold Reiß, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030907iAndrea Hanak, Berthold Reiß, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030909iAndrea Hanak, Berthold Reiß, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030910iAndrea Hanak, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030912iAndrea Hanak, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030911iAndrea Hanak, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030913iAndrea Hanak,  Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030915iAndrea Hanak, Diagonal, 2020, installation view
P1030966iAndrea Hanak, Helles Blau (Light Blue), 2019, Ink ad oilstick on paper, 76 x 56 cm
P1030961iAndrea Hanak, Übermalung (Paint Over), 2018, Ink and oilstick on paper, 76 x 56 cm
P1030960iAndrea Hanak, Komposition mit Rot (Composition with Red), 2018, Ink and oilstick on paper, 76 x 56
P1030958iAndrea Hanak, Klein Blau (Klein Blue), 2018, Ink and oilstick on paper, 76 x 56
P1030934iBerthold Reiß, Die Prophezeiung, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 69 x 809 cm (detail)
P1030939iBerthold Reiß, Die Prophezeiung, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 69 x 809 cm (detail)
P1030941iBerthold Reiß, Die Prophezeiung, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 69 x 809 cm (detail)
P1030942iBerthold Reiß, Die Prophezeiung, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 69 x 809 cm (detail)
P1030943iBerthold Reiß, Die Prophezeiung, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 69 x 809 cm (detail)

Two artists, two bodies of work on paper. Berthold’s, despite its unusual frieze-like format, is instantly recognisable as his. His paper is very fine and thin, his wash of acrylic paint pale, uneven and mottled, his underlying pencil drawing elegant. There are palm trees, ornaments, vases and faces, standing figures and boats. Andrea’s are perhaps less obviously recognisable as hers, but certain motives and gestures persist. Her paper is laboured upon and worn; her surfaces are uneven, encrusted and often covered by a latticework of marks made with oil crayons; her colours are rich, vibrant and deep. There are flowers and bulbs, leaves and petals, and decorative foliage. 

Paper, pencil, paint and crayons — all supplies a hobby artist might use. Flowers, vases and plants — all things what a hobby artist might paint. Andrea and Berthold take on these tropes of the amateur because they find the conventionality of paper, paint and flowers liberating. It is one of the self-imposed limitations on their practice that brings to the fore the peculiarity of what it means to make.

Traditionally speaking, making belonged to the domain of the human and defined the finitude of his cognition. A paradoxical consequence of our Anthropocene era, in which our specie’s dominance over the conditions of life on earth is complete, is that this thinking of human finitude was found to be limiting. Developments in science and technology, new social and political paradigms of finance capitalism and unprecedented ecological pressures opened philosophy to questions of the post-, in- or even non-human. 

If we begin to think about making not in the familiar terms of the maker and his creation, but as an impulse, which is not bound to the human domain, then this impulse can take two forms. On the one hand, there is a rational impulse in all labour, the need to overcome our human limitations through the use of reason. This is Promethean in character in that it is the need to remake our world for the better. On the other hand, there is a vitalistic force which we share with all animal life, which has to do with our need to attract. Here we live as an intensity, always connecting to other bodies, other intensities, to produce new and complex composite subjectivities. 

I like to think of Berthold’s and Andrea’s work in this way, because it seems to me caught between these two forms of making. In their use of paper and paint, the work steps outside the tired narrative of art and genius to produce a kind of diagonal between the rational and the animalistic impulse. The almost classical looking lines of Berthold’s work are in tension with its fragile materiality; Andrea’s seemingly expressive gestures are kept in check by consistency of format and time frame. Looking further, the meticulousness of Berthold’s work signals the rationale behind Andrea’s making; the pleasing density of her work marks the appeal of his surfaces. And with my thoughts of making and finitude, I, the third participant, stand not in the middle, but split across this complex assemblage.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2020

Diagonal – speech

Maria VMier

Vier

12.10 – 23.11.2019

 

sVrg1-5_DSC0813Vier, 2019, installation view

 

3_DSC0275Vier, 2019, installation view

 

4_DSC0620Vier, 2019, installation view

 

rg1-3_DSC0639Vier, 2019, installation view

 

rg3_DSC0702o. T. [ scarlet red and sap green ], 2019, Indian ink on chromolux, 70 x 100 cm

 

12_DSC0475Vier, 2019, installation view

 

9_DSC0629o. T. [ scarlet red and sap green ], 2019, Indian ink on chromolux, 70 x 100 cm

 

22_DSC0406Vier, 2019, installation view

 

13_DSC0395o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

15_DSC0480o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

20_DSC0482 o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

23_DSC0752o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

26_DSC0755o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

28_DSC0780o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

pd_DSC0816Dear Fear, 2019, reading performance

 

When Adorno was writing his Aesthetic Theory in the 50s and 60s, he could still make the claim, now by all accounts obsolete, that the experience of art is akin to the experience of natural beauty.  “Authentic artworks,” he writes, “hold fast to the idea of a reconciliation with nature by making themselves completely a second nature.” Although already wary of man’s subjugation of nature,  Adorno still believed it was possible to find beauty, if not in nature, then in art that we experience as if it was nature. He would argue we find certain objects in nature beautiful because these present themselves in such a way that allow us to do so.  Artworks are like a second nature because they also allow us to find beauty in them. Genius is nothing more than the creative principle by which this second nature can be produced.

Postmodern and especially feminist critique put this association of natural beauty with the beauty of art into question. While there might be objects that seem to engender claims of beauty, these are by large culturally determined by race, gender or class. Genius is not an innate principle but a historical concept, very much misogynistic in origin, that by definition excludes women from the production of art. So what would it mean to address natural beauty in art now? How can one as an artist approach the problem of nature?

These are some of the questions central to Maria VMier’s practice, and especially to the body of work she presents at GiG Munich, developed during her recent residency at a remote location in Uckermark, near Berlin. On the one hand, the reading she presents to us is a result of her research into the closely connected structures of patriarchy, capitalism and disenchanted nature, taking into account both feminist critique and postcolonial discourse. On site at Uckermack she would walk with her audience to various locations in the surrounding countryside to reflect on her relationship to nature while also referring to our current ecological crisis (the burning of the amazon, climate change denial and climate activism), the political consequences of capitalism’s belief in progress for postcolonial struggles in the global south and ecofeminist attempts to define the common as future sites of resistance. In her writing there is a Thoreau-like longing for a simpler existence within nature as well as the rejection of  hipster or even non-western spirituality, tainted as it is by the colonial representation of the other.

On the other hand her drawings are not so dissimilar to the paintings by Wols that Adorno was writing about more than 60 years ago. Black, scarlet and sap green ink on paper, meandering and interweaving brushstrokes – these formal elements recall the conventions of lyrical abstraction and in their modernism seem to pursue the image of a second nature. But the work also acknowledges that if this image is to be achieved at all it must be done knowingly, the exhibition constructed in such a way to expose the dialectics involved in all our dealings with nature. The meandering arabesques of VMiers large drawings are done on paper more suited to digital printouts than the handmade; the delicate smaller works are pinned like specimens behind plastic covers; the shamanistic frame of drying stinging nettles is set above a shimmering floor of the same plastic sheeting that is used to kill weeds. VMier’s drawings pursue a second nature almost stubbornly, aware of all the historical, political and personal difficulties involved. 

Magdalena Wisniowska 2019

Robin Mason

Constellation : Konstellation, 2.02 – 2.03.2018

 

5Robin Mason, Constellation : Konstellation, 2018, installation view

 

6Robin Mason, Constellation : Konstellation, 2018, installation view

 

_MG_9017Robin Mason, Collection, acrylic on paper, approx. 650 x 320 cm. Photo courtesy of Johannes Wende.

 

_MG_9034Robin Mason, Threshold, 2017, acrylic on paper, 175 x 240 cm and Black Forest Lake, 2017, acrylic on paper, four wineglasses, 65 x 42 x 15 cm. Photo courtesy of Johannes Wende.

 

4 (2)Robin Mason, Constellation : Konstellation, 2018, installation view

 

3 (1)Robin Mason, Constellation : Konstellation, 2018, installation view

 

2 (1)Robin Mason, Constellation : Konstellation, 2018, installation view

 

As so often with Robin Mason’s work, what first strikes the unaware visitor is its sheer exuberance. The busy installation of works on paper, drawings, paintings and sculpture that is made specifically for GiG Munich, is no different. We enter to a riot of colour, where vibrant oranges, acid yellows, baby pinks and sky blues all vie for our attention. Where there is no colour, a mass of lines takes over, forming waves and swirly patterns – dots and dashes cover any spare surface. Anthropomorphic forms rise up from the ground and grow through and between other forms, twisting around open books or vignettes that give us little views to somewhere else, tree covered landscapes, doorways, windows, more flowers and plants. Pierced by arrows or covered by cloth these forms have an erotic language of their own, some phallic, some clearly female in their appearance. Just when it seems we are able to find some familiar ground, the scale shifts suddenly. Large forms become small and things far away, close by. We find the night sky, reduced in its vastness, low down on the floor, its image only visible from behind and in a mirror.

The work’s exuberance is combined with so many references that it is easy to lose track. Some of these, like those to kitschy Bavarian souvenirs or to the Isenheim Alterpiece, would be familiar to a German audience, others are known to the artist only. Speaking to Mason one hears stories of earlier trips to Germany, of towns visited because of a book once read, of the disappointment of finding the Black Forest, not black but green, and of glasses, all four from a set, that belonged to his parents. The direct reference for the show is the 1609 painting Flight to Egypt by Adam Elsheimer, considered to be the first accurate depiction of the night sky in the Renaissance period.

Hovering above the exhibition is what could be seen as the eye of God and this is perhaps our entry point into the work. For God here, despite the numerous references to North European Christianity, is a Dionysian God, presiding over a world of the will to power, a world of forces and affects, and of the various powers that make up Life. That libidinal drives, both positive and negative, are at work in Mason’s practice is a fact acknowledged by other commentators, who noted that the pleasure apparent in Mason’s paintings tends to give way to feelings of anxiety and dread. I would say that in this exhibition, we enter a sphere in which each element casts influence on another, again positive and negative.   But the trick that Mason conveys so well is of affirmation. As Spinoza, Nietzsche and Deleuze have shown, to affirm brings joy and joy brings us closer to God. In this way, the “constellation” of the title stands for as much the night sky as for the crown of stars, the Corona Borealis, which Dionysus gifted Ariadne and tossed into the heavens.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2018

Constellation Saaltext1