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

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