Opening speech to Abstract Pleasures

Hello and welcome to GiG Munich’s autumn exhibition coinciding with the Open Art Weekend 2016, ‘Abstract Pleasures,’ featuring new site specific sculptural work by Kathrin Partelli and a selection from the photographic series, Sleeping Beauties, by Thomas Wieland. Those of you who have visited us before, may know that in my introductions I do not give a standard biography of the artist, whose work GiG Munich is showing. Instead, I would like to talk a little about the title, ‘Abstract Pleasures’ and my reasons for bringing these two very different artists, sculpture and photography together.

Let us turn to the second part of the title – pleasure – first. That the show has something to do with pleasure is immediately apparent from Thomas Wieland’s photos, which take the fairground rides of the annual Oktoberfest as a theme. Although the Oktoberfest marks the celebration of the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, the idea of the amusement park with fairground rides developed from the original pleasure gardens of the 18th century. Open to the public, these served as early venues of entertainment for the masses.

On the other hand, the first part of the title – abstract – seems to refer more to the work of Kathrin Partelli. Formal in quality, with a strong physical aspect her sculpture belongs to a minimalist tradition, rejecting composition and figuration for the disjunctive and the abstract. We can distinguish certain basic materials (metal, plaster and wood, wax and rubber) and certain basic mathematical shapes (lines, curves, quadrilaterals). Physical forces, such as stretching, pulling, and bending under gravity are at work. No element of construction is hidden; everything is laid out in a straightforward manner.

Yet equally, there is an abstract quality to Wieland’s photography. The very things which let us focus on the fairground rides – the fact that the images are unpopulated, that each ride is photographed separately from a standard distance, the neutral light, the depth of field and the cropping – also renders the image flat. The rides look more like a collage than a physical object, the various elements, bright colours, lights, slogans, placed next to each other without forming a coherent whole.

And similarly there is a pleasureable quality found in Kathrin Partelli’s work, a kind of humor, in common with the appropriation and the subversion of minimalist vocabulary by feminist and art povera artists. Her squares are wonky, the pieces of elastic might suddenly snap, the curved piece of plaster rests precariously on a gypsum board about to break.

Work that is about pleasure yet abstract, work that is abstract yet pleasureable – this is certainly one interpretation of the title. Nevertheless, ‘Abstract Pleasures’, refers to more. As mentioned in the brief text, which accompanied the invitation, it is also a matter of aesthetics. The pleasure of contemplation is associated with the appreciation of the beautiful object. First identified by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, this kind of pleasure has less to do with the object per se (indeed, Kant stresses that there can be no beautiful object), and more with the experience the human subject has when faced with beauty. Pleasure arises from the way our mind is engaged with the object of beauty. It is occupied with the object; it thinks about the object – and yet, despite all its efforts it cannot come to any conclusion other than, this object is beautiful.

If we now look at the work, we can see that, in both cases, it draws our attention. The photos rendered flat, allow our gaze to wonder, from slogan to paintwork, from light to colour. Similarly, the level of detail in Kathrin Partelli’s work belies its simple origins. There is a logic to her objects. No material is used more than once; the objects go from light to dark and from hard to soft; a curve in lead on the floor is repeated with a curve of rubber; what seems like a black stick is actually a drawing. We are occupied discerning these details, but as said, these objects allow no further conclusions to be drawn. Instead, they bring attention to the act of contemplation itself.

This is important, because historically speaking very few artworks engage with the pleasures of contemplation. Minimalism, art povera, or feminist art are more concerned with expanding the notion of the artwork. Indeed, it is rare that in everyday life we consider the joys of contemplation. Referring to Thomas Wieland’s photos: we are too busy spinning around half-drunk on the Oktoberfest rides to be thinking about their structures.

And all of this to what end? The pleasures of contemplation alert us to a basic relation, the fact we do have a relation to the outside world. That we can look at an object and recognize it as an object – that we think about the object and draw conclusions – this should be a source of wonder. I hope, that in a small way, this wonder is celebrated by the artwork featuring in this exhibition.

Magdalena Wisniowska, 2016

After Realism: Liane Lang

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Combining sculpture, photography and video, Liane Lang constructs elaborate mise en scenes, using casts of the human body and highly charged environments. Her interventions animate historical events and individuals, houses, statues and monuments. In After Realism she shows three photographs from her Saint series, taken in the house of the Gothic Victorian architect, Augustus Pugin. 

In einer Verschmelzung aus Skulptur, Fotografie und Video konstruiert Liane Lang ausgefeilte Inszenierungen, in denen sie Gipsabgüsse des menschlichen Körpers in emotional aufgeladene Kulissen setzt. Ihre Interventionen beleben historische Ereignisse sowie Individuen, Gebäude, Statuen und Monumente. In After Realism zeigt sie drei Fotografien aus der Serie Saint, die im Haus von Augustus Pugin aufgenommen wurden, der den architektonischen Stil des Gothic Revival geprägt hat.

New Show: After Realism

12th March – 15th April 2016, Opening 12th March, 3 – 6 pm

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After Realism brings together five artists, who in the face of contemporary challenges persist in making representational images. Liane  Lang, Richard Moon, Maria Thurn und Taxis, Gavin Tremlett and Youjin Yi work with the twofold difficulty of representing reality. First brought to the fore by a previous generation of artists, this consists of, on the one hand, an increasingly absent sense of what reality may be. Long mediated through the photographic and digital imagery, in its present commodified form reality retreats ever further behind a multitude of touch screens. On the other hand, art has since lost its privileged place in the task of representation.

In their work, Liane Lang, Richard Moon, Maria Thurn und Taxis, Gavin Tremlett and Youjin Yi reclaim some of the lost ground of representation, but in a manner that is alternately teasing, earnest, hostile, careful and funny.

After Realism führt fünf Künstler zusammen, die trotz heutiger Herausforderungen nicht davon abweichen gegenständliche Bilder zu schaffen. Liane Lang, Richard Moon, Maria Thurn und Taxis, Gavin Tremlett und Youjin Yi sind dabei einer doppelten Problematik ausgesetzt die Realität darzustellen. Bereits von einer vorangegangenen Generation von Künstlern beleuchtet, bedeutet dies zum einen ein zunehmend mangelndes Gefühl, was Realität sein könnte. Lange Zeit durch fotografische und digitale Bildsprache vermittelt, zieht sich die Realität nun in ihrer aktuellen kommerzialisierten Form noch weiter hinter einer Fülle von Touchscreens zurück. Zum anderen hat die Kunst ihre privilegierte Position in der Aufgabe der Repräsentation seitdem verloren.

In ihren Arbeiten gewinnen Liane Lang, Richard Moon, Maria Thurn und Taxis, Gavin Tremlett und Youjin Yi Bereiche des verlorengegangenen Terrains der Repräsentation auf eine Weise zurück, die abwechselnd scherzhaft, ernsthaft, feindselig, vorsichtig und humorvoll ist.

(trans. Nadja  Gebhardt)