Justina Becker

24.05 – 12.07.2019

 

P1030657Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

justina28Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030722Justina Becker, untitled, 2019, antique wooden windowframe and egg tempera, dimensions variable

 

Justina14Justina Becker, 2019, installation view
justina26Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030736Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030735Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

Justina12Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030700
Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030699Justina Becker, o.T., 2015, egg tempera and canvas strips, 20 x 32  cm
P1030716Justina Becker, o.T., 2015, egg tempera on canvas, 20 x 32 cm

 

P1030719Justina Becker, o. T., 2015, egg tempera on canvas,  20 x 32 cm

 

P1030686Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

Justina3Justina Becker, 2019, installation view (nighttime)

 

Justina4Justina Becker, 2019, installation view (nighttime)

 

Justina2Justina Becker, 2019, installation view (nighttime)

 

All things have a strangeness to them for those who care to look. Their foreignness has been long recognised, whether this takes the form of the thing-in-itself, never to be experienced or trauma, first defined as that which acts like a foreign body in the mind.  We notice the strangeness of objects for instance, when blunt or broken they stop being useful and they turn away from us and each other.  Justina Becker pays close attention to things in their strangeness. The objects she incorporates in her practice are always things that she finds close by, in her house or in the small town where she lives, and almost always, these things have been abandoned, damaged in some regard, without a use. The objects have a history to them – even the viewer not privileged enough to know more of their background, the wheres and hows they came about, can recognise the signs of their previous use. They retain a sense of having lived their own life, among other people and other objects. 

Having studied painting to graduate with Klasse Hildebrand,  Justina Becker approaches her objects with the eye of a painter. Her older work was concerned with the material qualities of painting. How the canvas goes around the stretcher would be important or the way that the canvas keys fit tightly into the corner of a frame.  A shift in her practice occurred when she discovered the readymade and began to use things that previously belonged to someone else. Initially she would wrap these objects in various ways. Some would be covered in a layer of light, sheer fabric almost like a shroud, others would be tightly wound with brightly coloured woollen thread. This protective gesture had a double meaning. On the one hand, it would be a way of hiding the object, obscuring its material qualities and past histories. On the other hand, the object would never be completely covered and through the various gaps and imperfections, its material history would become even more apparent. 

The current exhibition at GiG, shows two of Justina Becker’s older paintings together with a new body of work. One seems at first a straightforwardly abstract, but gives the illusion of a painting shrunk and stretched, the other, consisting of strips of canvas wrapped tightly like a bandage around a stretcher, utilises this double gesture of hiding and revealing. They provide a kind of framework for the new work, a complex installation of hanging window frames, made specifically for the exhibition room at GiG. The wooden windows frames are old, perhaps antique, but with none of the antique’s preciousness. They have been removed and replaced with something better and less rickety, glass taken out, the wood still having some kind of value, even if just as kindling for the fire. These frames have been partially painted by the artist in sympathetic colours and rehanged in the space no longer as windows, or even as architectural elements that would divide the room, but simply for themselves, in their best light. Justina Becker’s work takes on here an almost theatrical element, but the stage she sets is curiously not for us, the viewer, awaiting some kind of grand spectacle. The room in its theatricality is now left for the objects to be in.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2019

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