A Celebration of Material
Berlin Gallery Tour

Issue no5
Oct-Nov 2019
Catalogue Imaginé

Perhaps the only objection an art lover could have to Berlin is the way its galleries are scattered all over the city. In any case, you have to know your favorites and the majority let photography and painting rule the gallery space this month. The choices appear safe, but luckily, safe doesn´t necessarily mean boring.

Traces of origin

In the heart of Kreuzberg lies the Micky Schubert gallery. For this exhibition it presents new photographs and paintings by the Romanian artist Marieta Chirulescu (1974). When entering the relatively small space, only a few abstract and rather minimal photographs and paintings are hanging on the wall, except for one which is placed on top of a large white rectangular canvas leaning against the wall. This clean set-up with ostensibly simple images demands a closer look during which recognizable figurative elements start to reveal themselves. However, in this search for recognition one is lead to pay attention to the textures of the surface: the sporadic strokes of color, scrapings, remnants of dust and little pieces of paper which are mostly placed to the edges of the frame. In the second room a white, almost powder-blue, monochrome painting is marked by these traces of dripping and scratching of the canvas. From under layers of white on white, there are hints of red, green, blue and yellow lightly shining through. Chirulescu´s paintings and photographs seem to be carefully put together. By layering multiple images on top of each other and the use of different media and techniques she is able to create images that are both obscure as well as suggestive, leaving you thinking about where these traces have their origin.

Back to the future

At gallery Klosterfelde, Armin Linke’s (1966) new photographs and 3-D film, combined under the title Future Archeologies, also evoke a feeling of deciphering traces. It´s hard to tell whether we’re looking at pictures of real landscapes or staged settings. In these works “the notion of archeology serves to transfer the (…) deserted landscapes into a temporal system – it archives their modernity and projects it into the future.” Here, time indeed serves as the main protagonist. The WWII monument in Kosturnica, Macedonia, the Har Homa settIement in the West Bank and the Shrine of Books of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem all showcase a certain anachronism; a ‘pastness’ of modern ideas.

The epitome of this mood is found in the picture of the Russian MIR space-station simulator which makes you wonder: Is this an example of contemporary technology or are we thrown back into the early sixties in which new-found modernity and the development of technology enjoyed its triumphs, leaving this image to serve as a nostalgic and moving illustration of a past utopia? The 3-D film in the back room, Nuclear Voyage (2008, 10 mins. 22 secs.) calls forth the same experience. Without a narrative construction, the film shows the workings of a nuclear power plant in an abandoned Italian village. The consecutive frames of the factory’s machines, anonymous labourers and old-fashioned computers portray a place in which time is numbed, and carries on to exist far away from the real world.

Material celebration

Great painting and drawing didn’t stop at gallery Esther Schipper in the Mitte district. During the first two months of 2010 twelve Berlin galleries have changed seats with their Parisian counterparts. In this Berlin-Paris gallery swap Esther Schipper was selected to work with Nathalie Obadia who shows two of her artists, Jorge Queiroz (1966) and Martin Barré (1924-1993) in the popular Berlin exhibition space.

Barré’s overview of his abstract-minimal canvasses versus Queiroz’ elaborate paintings and drawings provide a great contrast. However, the two artists have more in common than it seems. Coming from a high modernist tradition, Barré shows a celebration of his material, with a collection of lines in pale yellow, orange, light blue and faded black that largely follow the shape of the stretcher and sometimes are put straight on to the raw linen. Diagonal strokes take over in his later works from the seventies and triangular shapes dominate the whitened surfaces from the eighties. Much smaller canvasses with black spray painted stripes are hung above the gallery doors, in an almost Malevich kind of mannerism. Still, however great his influence was, the idea of looking at brilliance from the past is tangible. It feels somewhat odd to see his work in this setting, in which his paintings are utilized as objects to frame the space they occupy.

Opposed to Barré’s work, it is hard to describe Queiroz’ multicolored drawings and paintings built up out of charcoal and gouache. His seemingly instinctive way of working leads to images that ooze an impulsive and dreamlike quality. Although they seem to lean towards Dali´s surrealistic paintings, Queiroz´ work is nevertheless innovative. Instead of using the material in order to create an image, Queiroz is lead by the material itself, letting it work the surface in a natural way without losing control. Therefore, the images do not come across as arbitrary or whimsical. Queiroz doesn´t deny the limitations of the materials but embraces them instead, and allows them to serve as the central point of the work.


Marieta Chirulescu, 19-02 / 19-03, Micky Schubert Gallery
Armin Linke, 08-01 / 13-03, Klosterfelde
Berlin Paris, 15-01 / 19-03, Esther Schipper

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Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2019