RE: IMAGINING EUROPE
13 September - 2 DeCember 2017
opening: 12 SEPTEMBER, 7 pm
GROUP EXHIBITION WITH Nikos Aslanidis, Maria Capelo, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Milena Dragicevic, Luisa Kasalicky, Ida Lindgren, Mark Manders, Michael Markwick, Agnieszka Polska & Witek Orski, Monika Sosnowska and Tessa VerdeR
CURATED BY JURRIAAN BENSCHOP
This exhibition shows the rich imagination that can be found across the European continent. Through the work of twelve artists, a variety of motifs and attitudes unfold. Instead of general statements about Europe, the viewer is offered differentiated and nuanced individual perspectives. Some of them are rooted in local histories, while others relate to the history of art, to nature, or to the search for the timeless. Together, the twelve participating artists offer a panorama of European imagination in times of migration, mobility, and political turbulence.
Throughout Europe a variety of languages, landscapes, and ways of living can be encountered against the background of a shared history and a common understanding of what is necessary for art to flourish. This coherent diversity is reflected through the attitudes and imaginations of the artists brought together in this show. The artists understand their work as being part of a global (art) society. And yet, local sensibilities are also included in their works. The exhibition shows work from artists based in such different locations as Berlin, Enköping, Lisbon, London, Ronse, Thessaloniki, Vienna and Warsaw.
With Re: Imagining Europe, Box Freiraum follows up on the exhibition As If, At Home (2016), which reflected on cultural origin and the notion of home and belonging. The current exhibition identifies different sources for artistic creation, and highlights imagination and stories of origin.
Nikos Aslanidis (Greece, 1980), lives in Thessaloniki
The paintings of Nikos Aslanidis are the result of a long process of bringing up layers of colors until a dynamic figure appears. Features like grace and beauty accompany a feeling of unease or pressure. The artist finds in a spatial setting the possibility to define the human figure, and create the necessary tension to make a painting work. In The Orator (Alchemist) (2016-17) there is an element of passing time involved, as the figure is shown in movement, and appears with more then one pair of hands. Such elements introduce not only dynamics, but also a sense of magic in the paintings. Aslanidis’ focus on the space around the figure, comes with the awareness that he taps into a centuries-old genre. Based in Thessaloniki, the artist identifies with the broader European history of painting, ranging from “transcendental, almost ghostlike appearance of figures in Byzantine art,” to Spanish 17th-century portraiture, to painters of the modern condition, like Francis Bacon.
Maria Capelo (Portugal, 1970), lives in Lisbon
The experiences of nature and film are equally important for Maria Capelo’s drawings. Her series Las Hurdes, is based on a film by Luis Buñuel, documenting the extremely poor conditions of people living in the Spanish region of Extremadura in the 1930s. Capelo took a frame from the movie as the base for a series of ink drawings of a mountainous landscape, which comes across as variations on a motif. They transmit a feeling of movement and nervous energy, while still being sensitive to nuance and details. The play of blots and vertical stripes leads to an ambiguous form of figuration, implying both the contour of a landscape and accidental forms that could indicate the presence of living creatures. In other series, Capelo tuned in on the landscape of southern Alentejo, in Portugal, where she spends part of the year, and of Piemonte, where Italian writer Cesare Pavese used to work. Implied in her approach seems to be the notion that any representation contains a form of fiction.
Pauline Curnier Jardin (France, 1980), lives in Berlin
“I invent mythologies and stories of origins because I think my 'mission' is to invent forms of catharsis and fantasy, and then to invent origins other than the one we have…,” Pauline Curnier Jardin remarked. Her movie Grotta Profunda, Les Humeurs du Gouffre (2011) leads the visitor into a Platonic cave where an all-seeing eye appears as a walking creature, facing the big questions of life. The movie seems to be a reflection on creation and the question of where life comes from: “What if nature made art, made paintings…?” a voice says. Rich and visually evocative, the movie shifts between an outer and an inner world, or, one could say, between nature as landscape and nature as origin. An extended version of the movie was shown in the 57th Venice Biennale in the main exhibition Viva Arte Viva. Curnier Jardin moved to Berlin recently, after finishing a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam.
Milena Dragicevic (former Yugoslavia, 1965), lives in London
The paintings of Milena Dragicevic are both bright and restrained; in each, a physical presence appears through a number of painterly gestures against a colored void. Human presence is suggested, but not represented, the forms rather work like abstractions, of body parts, of movements, or other elements. The ongoing series of paintings, Erections for Transatlantica, evoke an imaginary space, suggestively situated between Europe and the Americas. This space has been crossed by the artist many times by plane, thus sparking the imagination. Dragicevic is the daughter of Serbian immigrants who moved to Canada when she was a baby. After finishing art school in Toronto she moved to London to attend the Royal College of Art. She is one of the three painters representing Serbia at the 57th Venice Biennale, in 2017.
Luisa Kasalicky (former Czechoslovakia, 1974), lives in Vienna
As a painter Luisa Kasalicky is interested in bringing different kind of materials together, taken for instance from applied art, craft or industrial origin. These materials are combined in paintings or installations where they establish new connections. The work springs from a longing to connect lost time or unappreciated aesthetics with the present reality. Kasalicky’s work narrows the gap between reality and fiction, just as it brings together materials that are considered high and low. Thus her paintings refuse to appear solely as prominent art. She has described herself as ‘a storyteller within abstraction’, pointing to attitudes in painting, which in the past often have been regarded as opposites. In 2013 Kasalicky was awarded the Otto Mauer Price. She lives in Vienna where she teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Ida Lindgren (Sweden, 1983), lives in Enköping (near Stockholm)
In Rings of Life (2013), a film byIda Lindgren, a young girl is talking about her little sister who has passed away at the age of five after an illness. In her reflections, there is a mixture of longing for her sister, and an acceptance of death as a natural thing. Meanwhile, the visuals show a winter landscape, a carpenter’s shop, someone sawing wood. Images tell an independent story that only converges with the girl's words towards the end of the film. The films of Ida Lindgren highlight the perspective of children on the world. For Clown Medicine (2012), she filmed in a children’s hospital. Her movie The Body is a Lonely Place (2016), refers to anorexia, and was awarded a special mention in the Generation 14plus Short Film section of the 2016 Berlinale film festival.
Mark Manders (The Netherlands, 1968), lives in Ronse (near Brussels)
The sculptural work of Mark Manders could be regarded as an act of disappearing. In his ongoing project Self Portrait as a Building, the absence of the artist offers us a paradox. The sculptures are traces of a “somebody” with a poetic view on the world and on the relationships between things. His work Clay Figure with Iron Chair (2009) is reminiscent of ancient Greek sculpture, and as such, could be a symbol of high European culture. We find this figure wounded and damaged, which does not mean it has lost any of its presence and beauty, though. In Landscape Fragment (2017), a slice of a typewriter alludes to the power of fiction and, paradoxically, to the power of words to create images. Manders represented the Netherlands at the 55th Venice Biennale, in 2013.
Michael Markwick (United States of America, 1974), lives in Berlin
The large-scale paintings that Michael Markwick made in 2016-17 encompass different conceptions of space. The paintings could be considered as containers of energies, with conflicting and harmonising elements. Some shelter-like surrounded spaces can be recognized. One could also read them as remnants caused by a world falling apart or full of anxiety. Such contradictory readings are possible because these are painterly spaces that are not firmly rooted in descriptive figuration. Rather, Markwick seems at home in the poetic ways of abstraction, in which his specific use of color defines the temperature and mood of each painting. The experience of nature and the impermanence of life have been recurrent motifs in his work. The Shoreline (2017), according to the artists, is “about the zone between life and death,” as evoked by the area in a landscape where water meets land. The artist was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to a Dutch father and a Sri Lankan mother. He has been living in Berlin since 2005.
Agnieszka Polska (Poland, 1985), lives in Berlin
Agniezka Polska delves into the history of her home country to shed light on forgotten figures and events, such as a strike of art students, or the work of the conceptual artist Borowski. Her film The Guns (2014), made together with Warsaw-based photographer Witek Orski, takes a student protest in Warsaw in 1968 as its starting point. Guns in the national museum were drilled with holes, to prevent protesters from using them as weapons. In Polska’s film, objects are not solid, but rather have a fluid, dynamic, and colorful existence, and it is the film medium that allows them to be so flexible. In a similar way, the stories that Polska recalls are not solid either, but are instead interpretations of history in a free way, crossing into the realm of fiction. Polska is one of the four finalists for the 2017 Preis der Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Her work is also on view at the 57th Venice Biennale, in the exhibition Viva Arte Viva.
Witek Orski (Poland, 1985), lives in Warsaw
Both in his art practice and in his theoretical research, Orski is foremost interested in photography. What interests him the most is the issue of the context and viewer dependent process of creation of what we call “the meaning of a photograph”. In that matter, what he’s trying to focus on and demonstrate in his works are things that pose resistance to the ‘transparency’ that we intuitively ascribe to the medium of photography. In practice it means applying post-conceptual strategies of trompe l’oeil, tautology, empty metaphor, repetition, digital manipulation and extended preparation process in order to open the images for broad existential and political interpretations.
Monika Sosnowska (Poland, 1972), lives in Warsaw
For her series of sculptures Market (2012), Sosnowska was inspired by vendor stands she saw at a giant bazaar in Warsaw. The so called Jarmark Europa was a place to obtain goods from all over the world, mostly fake brands. The bazaar disappeared to make place for a stadium for the Euro 2012 football championship in Poland and the Ukraine. Aarchitectonic changes in the city are often the source of Sosnowska’s sculptural work. She noticed how the urban environment changed rapidly after the fall of communism in her home country, and a planned city made way for the wild growth of liberal capitalism, turning that city into a collage. She develops her sculptures as a reflection on these processes. In her case, art is a way of memorizing what is disappearing, in terms of styles and aesthetics, and the beliefs attached to that. A former functional value is echood in her sculptures--for instance, in the hanging metal sculpture that is based on a display for clothes with similar forms. After being bent, the object appears as the abstraction of a metal flower. Sosnowska represented Poland at the 52nd Biennale of Venice, in 2007.
Tessa Verder (The Netherlands, 1967), lives in Berlin
As a photographer, Tessa Verder travels to remote areas to capture light, emptiness, and unaffected nature. In her studio, she combines her photographed motifs with high-precision reproductions taken from historic paintings, creating landscapes that spring from existing places but present an imagined, spiritual world. She finds artistic roots in the Romantic tradition, for instance in the work of Caspar David Friedrich, who, as a painter, pointed to the importance of inner vision in addition to what can be seen outside. In Ava (2017), we see a woman modeled in a classic pose, against a background of refined natural motifs. In Breeze of Light 5 (2017), the aerial photographic view of a dark sea is combined with a sky taken from an etching. Verder’s works reflect on the question of where we come from, not in the sense of geography but in the sense of belonging and original nature. The artist grew up in The Netherlands and has been living in Berlin since 2006.