Opening: Saturday 24th May 2008
Exhibition Dates: 24th May - 21st June 2008
With the exhibition New Frontiers Hamish Morrison Galerie marks several departures into new areas, partly in terms of content, partly in terms of form. Berlin-debut artist Jasper de Beijer (NL) currently with a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, together with John Pule (NZ) and Raffael Waldner (CH) deal with the topics of colonisation and the interpretation of history in different ways.
Jasper de Beijer (* 1973, NL) in his current photo series The Riveted Kingdom reconstructs a period of a historic era that was dominated by Europe: the 19th Century. Using printed paper de Beijer constructs three-dimensional models of city neighbourhoods, portraits, and public and industrial spaces, which he photographs, once again on paper. De Beijer reconstructs and exaggerates not only historically representative motifs, he also reconstructs and exaggerates the typical colours, which are closely linked with those motifs in our own pictorial memory. The masterful artificiality in the works of Jasper de Beijers succeeds in conveying the impetuously hopeful spirit of that epoch. One feels the absolute faith in technical progress, and the conviction that this progress would automatically also improve humanity. Technical superiority was used as a basis for a moral superiority, which in turn justified the economic and cultural conquest of whole continents. History made of paper, reproduced on paper, hauntingly drives home the fact that history was created and described by humans.
John Pule, (*1962 in Niue, lives in NZ) conveys in his large-format paintings the effects of that European claim to power. His paintings seem to represent an extract of an entity consisting of hanging plants. Time and again nest-like concentrations appear; in line with the compression of form the colour density becomes stronger, more intense and brighter. Behind this hanging cosmos one discovers fine designs, in which familiar symbols are combined with strange ones. The drawings describe episodes from the conquest of Polynesia. Pule cryptically combines Christian power insignia with figures and ornaments from recent times and mythological prehistory of the islands. We see fish inside the stomachs of fish, whose bellies in turn contain strange animals and Christian symbols. We see again and again a strange bird in different sizes. As the designs elude any clear interpretation, they do not convey any assessment of the events. It does not seem to be a question of stating that the indigenous culture and history were superior, the objective seems to be to identify them as their own and therefore to be of equal value. Pule’s arresting paintings succeed in taking us with him to a time which constitutes history, the consequences of which we have to grapple with equally.
Raffael Waldner (*1972, CH) makes us realise through everyday experience how much we are still shaped by the spirit of colonisation. The series Kew Gardens consists of middle-format colour photographs. They show marvellously illuminated exotic plants. The photographs sumptuously convey an impression of the abundance and the enormous generosity of nature: the fine gradations of the green tones, the variety of the leaf forms in perfect harmony with the form and colour of the branches. One can enjoy these photographs. But the gaze is suddenly stopped by small plastic plaques which can easily be overlooked. We are in the botanical gardens of London. Proudly the signs provide information about age and origin of the respective plants. Proudly they also give thereby information of the many countries which were conquered by Great Britain. These plants have been tended and maintained for a long time. For them, living conditions were created which correspond exactly with their needs. Here one knows how one has to treat such plants. Suddenly, these plants seem like the tip of the iceberg. A mountain of cultural goods that have found a better place in our museums, botanical gardens, dwellings, parks etc. than in their homelands. Like Jasper de Beijer and John Pule, Raffael Waldner also succeeds to convey in his photographs the topicality of history and the ambivalence of its interpretation.
The New Frontiers to which Stefan Kuebler (*1968, D) sets off are of a completely different nature. Stefan Kuebler is looking for new challenges in pure painting. One knows already his paper works, in which he cuts up flyers, postcards and wallpapers and reconstitutes them into mosaics or pixellated entities. Although the motif dissolves in rhythmic kaleidoscope-like picture fabrics, it evokes memories of something, which one believes to know and nevertheless one has never seen. Now Kuebler focuses above all on painting. But he has not only changed his medium. He explores new possibilities in painting technique. He still concerns himself with the making conscious of perception processes. The fleeting, the quick, the short impression. Movement and opulence of visual stimuli often leave only coloured traces on our retina. Kuebler tries to conserve these traces in his paintings. He tries to approximate the medial duplication of our everyday perception through a duplication of his painting technique. The paintings are created on panes of glass. Canvas is then laid on top of the painting (eventually the back-side of what we see) and then removed from the glass. Regular horizontal brush lines are crisscrossed by a counter-movement which the artist creates with his fingers. Close inspection reveals that the painting is completely smooth, to certain disappointment. As they do not leave any haptic trace, the paint traces gain a presence of their own. This constitutes playful and experimental basic research in its best sense to explore the possibilities of painting in the quest for a valid representation of the perception of reality.