After Déry. Photo by The Vision.

Collegium Hungaricum Berlin
March 4 - May 22 2011

Curated by Uwe Goldenstein

Interview deutschlandradio kultur
Exhibition view
Catalogue (engl.).
Katalogtext auf deutsch

Konstantin Déry - Spiegelung
Konstantin Déry - Spiegelung, 2011, oil on canvas, 180×130cm

Adam Magyar, Juan Béjar, René Holm, Konstantin Déry, Gábor A. Nagy, Deenesh Ghyczy, Simone Haack, Anne Wölk, Peter Hampel, Franziska Klotz, Mirjam Siefert, Stepanek & Maslin, Horst Waigel, Svätopluk Mikyta, Adam Bota, Alberto Petrò, Markus Wüste, Steffi Stangl, Jan Ros, Jozsef Bullas, Kirill Chelushkin, Tibor Iski Kocsis, Szilárd Cseke

Inside The Weightless Space Of Landscape

Landscape appears in those cases where the spatial continuity and totality of observable reality is successfully fused with a highly reflected, individual experience of reality. Matthias Eberle (1980)

Loneliness Shines. Malcolm Middleton

The swinging child against a monochrome background on the cover of this catalogue (see below) points to the central idea of this unconventional exhibition of landscapes. The landscape fully disappears in the dark background, to the benefit of the figurative foreground. Furthermore, the motive is generated from a mosaic of letters that very subtly comments on the overall situation of a disorientated civilisation. The swinging movement of the child in front of a black emptiness symbolises an individual’s instability, detachment and incessant search for orientation — a search for the next and newest alignment within a limitless patchwork of signifying threads which offer neither a foothold, nor a centrally organised texture of meaning. Surrounding us is a permanent buzz of digitally processed images and slogans in vaguely meaningful contexts. We are inside a maelstrom of contingent information, and completely lacking the ability to evaluate it. As if we were ourselves part of Gábor A. Nagy’s painting and its particles of text, which seem like lonely, empty metaphors. We thus share the situation of the child sitting on the very edge, floating in front of nothingness. The brief moment of weightlessness experienced during swinging expresses a desire for detachment from our self-made, media-ridden environment. The black in the background could signify a new beginning, a new alignment — but likewise the end of a historically grown culture now in the process of overtaking itself.

Gabor A. Nagy - Choose Life
Gábor A. Nagy - Choose Life, 2010, acrylics on canvas, 100×280cm

The portrayal of landscape as a space of social representation may appear absurd and anachronistic in the face of a dissolving world. How to unite a borderless and technology-dominated world with the well-balanced genre of landscape painting, and its clearly defined rules? But it is precisely the formal and aesthetic underpinnings of the genre that provide a clear framework for the reception, coordination and mirroring of our present-day lifeworld, characterised not least by a confusing simultaneity of styles. Compared with the formal concept of the genre, the questioning and modification of spatial orders evident in contemporary representations of landscape offers impressive insights into metaphorically motivated shifts of meaning. Accordingly, this exhibition aims to expose the omnipresent signs of disorientation by focussing on artists’ handling of the image space.

Into The Wild is the section of the exhibition focussing on wilderness as a utopian space, marked by a certain accommodation of post-romantic longings for oneness and unity with nature, but nonetheless indicative of irretrievably lost elixir of life. With fading dreams of archaic or romantic landscapes and the incessant expansion of urban environments, the self-evident understanding of nature as landscape has all but disappeared. Reality as experienced from the perspective of an urban environment is largely based on artificial, media-generated and thus systemically immanent images. And this situation threatens to lead into a condition of weightlessness, a permanent, nervous levitation.

Eberle’s introductory quote offers a compelling art-historical definition of landscape. It takes the immediate and unmediated observation of landscape as point of departure for the individual interpretation to follow. Traditionally, nature is painted and embedded in a formal framework consisting of foreground, middle, and background, as Eberle indicates with the terms "spatial continuity" and "spatial totality". Caspar David Friedrich already questioned this trichotomy in 1808 by omitting the foreground in his Monk by the Sea. In the works presented here, the formal embedding of motives in different image layers seems to have become completely redundant. We experience landscape as a black surface, as in the case of Nagy, or in the hyperreal but far removed tree-motive by Tibor Iski Kocsis (see catalogue). The vanishing point, which serves to pull the layers of an image together in perspective, is absent in the visual order evoked by these artists. It is consciously surrendered for the benefit of a self-defined structure that defies the continuum of space: Anne Wölk’s version of nature (see catalogue) is one that obstructs the gaze, while Juan Béjar boldly quotes a pre-renaissance landscape (see below). Here, it seems as if the vanishing point has yet to be invented, and a world without a central perspective is subtly evoked. The unusual work is premised on a radical question: aren’t we on the verge of completely revaluating nature, which would necessitate a completely novel scheme, perhaps even an ahistorical viewpoint onto our fragmented present, which can no longer accommodate a single vanishing point, a centralised, totalitarian spatial order?

Juan Bejar - La Otra Mirada
Juan Béjar - La Otra Mirada, 2008, oil on wood, 100×81cm

In this sense, the protagonist in René Holm’s painting also seems to mourn the passing and flowing-away of his self (see his tab on this website). For Holm, the sublime experience of nature in a romantic forest setting ends in the negation of a positive experience of nature and death. Franziska Klotz’s impressionist portrait of a reindeer (see her tab on this website) visualises the utopian wilderness with colour particles, streaks, and overlapping layers of paint. Her open style plays with the projections and illusions inside the viewers’ imaginations, as they struggle to assemble the pieces into a single picture. Peter Hampel’s perspective of a flooded piece of untouched wilderness (see catalogue) confines nature to the scale of a minute detail. This pantheistic perspective, in which manifestations of God seem to occur only in small details, is fully dissolved in Horst Waigel’s instructions for a God trap (see his tab on this website). Akin to Juan Béjar or René Holm, cultural norms of interpretation are here revaluated and challenged with existential humour. Likewise, weightless glances into the sky — as proposed by Stepanek & Maslin (see their tab on this website) or Szilárd Cseke — point to a metaphysical homelessness. The romantic ideal of fusing with nature increasingly becomes an escapist retreat into a private world of desires. A disorientating experience, a lonely state of levitation, exactly as suggested by Jan Ros’ play of spotlights (see catalogue). And even a garden chair, a device for contemplation, is irreparably broken. Markus Wüste’s marble sculpture — in which the cheap material of the original has been turned into stone and thus elevated into a monument of our times — by its very weight detracts us from any thoughts of wanting to reassemble the chair (see catalogue).

It is no coincidence that the artists in the exhibition were primarily born in the 1970s. Maybe this generation was the last one to have intensively experienced nature through immediate contact, and is thus able to explore the distance between humans and their natural environment with particular acuity. Formally, aesthetically and emotionally, these artists’ works can be seen as blending landscape or nature with their personal identity. The reference to young European landscape describes an attempt to redefine the cognitive premises of observing nature and landscape in the light of the European tradition of landscape painting. This tradition offers both an appropriate formal framework and an aesthetic retreat from which to behold the world with sufficient distance and from a truly human point of view.

Uwe Goldenstein

staatspräsident mit kurator
Hungarian President Pál Schmitt visits the exhibition (with curator Uwe Goldenstein)