Period: 29 November 2019 – 17 January 2020
Artists: Gisele Camargo, Elizabeth Sonneck and Jonas Schoeneberg
Location: Kang Contemporary, Berlin, Germany
In her book The Love of Painting (2018), professor and art historian Isabelle Graw explored the re-found possibilities of painting. In relation to the long history of the medium, painting is still a field that is constantly challenged, compared and discussed with fervor as much in academia as in exhibition spaces. The coined term vitalistic fantasies offer a concise justification for this interest: an inanimate object that carries the possibility to be converted into a universe within itself, once loaded with human emotions, desires and to some extent, hopes.
“Viewers often project vitalistic fantasies onto paintings, endowing them with human attributes such as authority, self-will, or vigor. These fantasies are vitalistic in that they imagine a life force, or élan vital, that is expressed freely and autonomously without encountering limitations, obstacles, or conflicts.” Isabelle Graw, The Love of Painting
The exhibition Vitalistic Fantasies uses the term’s poetic and subjective qualities to create a space where contemporary abstract paintings are able to be placed in dialogue with the viewer, with each other and finally as a living system of sorts. Considering the infinitude of possibilities, challenges, and developments of painting, the exhibition focuses on the abstract in order to highlight the materiality of the painting as object, its form and physical dimensions; qualities often lost in digital reproductions. In this setup, the viewer is once again an active participant in the painting, whilst interpreting and negotiating its ways of being.
If the interest in painting has never really been lost, its discourse is constantly changing in resonance to art critics and discussions surrounding art production. All theory and medium converge somehow to painting, even if it is to deny it, and it this influx of influences the painting remains a central component of art critic and creation.
At this moment, the exhibition asks how contemporary abstract painting positions itself between the long history of painting and today’s critical and multi-media urgencies? The ever-present medium is undoubtedly still relevant, but how can we activate painted objects’ agency in the face of ongoing developments in image consumption and digital existence?
To enable these discussions, the exhibition display suggests a movement between interaction and isolation. Although presented as a group, the works are completely isolated first and foremost to then later being seen as part of a unified exhibition. Through this set up the vitalistic ideals presented in the painting are respected, whilst still tested. The ludic and subjective ways one can engage with fantasies are personal relationships nurtured between viewer, artist, and artwork. All are equally important agents in this exercise of discovering meaning.
The show invites visitors to discuss the different directions that one can investigate abstract painting today and how we can further understand and dive into painterly worlds from today’s aesthetic, political and critical positions views since all positions are relevant and offer an alternative take upon the medium. Viewers will then be able to dive into these abstract worlds, at last finding the paradoxical balance between critical thinking and daydreaming.
Gisele Camargo’s career started in 1990’s in Rio de Janeiro, where the urban typology influenced her early works and led to her growing interest in architectural shapes and constructions. Whilst its true that the Rio de Janeiro depicted in postcards couldn’t be more different from the Rio experienced by its inhabitants, she engaged in depicting both its facets, at times through reduced forms, in other works through colour and composition, her vision of the city expanding and becoming familiar in her scales of grey and sharp corners. In 2018, the artist relocated her studio and home to the natural reserve of Cipó, situated in the outskirts of Belo Horizonte. This change deeply influenced Camargo’s practice as she started to discover new landscapes, above and below earth, which became the source for her most recent body of work. Stones, erosions and flora all become departure points for her elaborated abstract constructions which resonate with nature, the environment and their power. Considering current affairs and the emergency of climate change, being in Cipó itself one of the endangered sites in Brazil, she reduces the distance between the urban and rural, the landscape’s material existence and the painting that becomes a landscape itself.
Elisabeth Sonneck’s most recent series of paintings follow elegant rules created by the artist. These rules have been evolving during her career and deep relate to the use of her body as a marker. The paint application occurs in one long brushstroke that responds to the artist’s own mobility, this process being repeated throughout the surface with different intensities. The result resembles the mechanical production techniques of printing that once closer contact is stablished, reveals itself to the eye allowing glimpses of the artist’s hand and craftsmanship. In the last decade, Sonneck has also developed her paper painting sculptural pieces. The artist creates abstract compositions that later become the matter for on-site interventions as sculptural elements that respond to the space and unfolds as a possibility for indoor landscape. In her compositions, diverse tonalities and colour combinations are used to bring dynamism and harmony in the form of abstraction and unsettled shapes. The artist’s presence is at times almost completely withdrawn whilst the viewer tries unsuccessfully to fully decode the interferences in the surface, the soft sculptures stark presence as the only signifier between artists and audience.
The Berlin based painter’s artistic practice focuses on painting, sculpture and architecture, where all these elements are combined and result in paintings that immediately reveal two crucial dynamics, those of the viewer and artwork and the artwork and space. His pieces are elaborated constructions that use plaster, pigments and a painting techniques created by the artist himself in his studio. By combining these elements and interests, Schoeneberg’s paintings play visual games with the eye and the historic memory of painting. At times, individual elements in the composition resemble lost civilisations, at others modern masters brushstrokes and more often than not, something altogether different and unfamiliar. Embracing its architectural qualities without distancing the artworks from the tradition of painting, the artist embraces aforementioned tradition by, instead of shying away from its history and everlasting quality, diving into elaborate and untraditional pictorial construction. In his late artworks, outsiders elements, such as smaller sculptures, candles and organic material and brought into the composition to once again, challenge limitations of the painting as only surface.