artist / participant

press release

OneTwenty Gallery is delighted to present the second solo exhibition of upcoming German artist Jochen Mühlenbrink (°1980). Recently graduated at the Academy of Düsseldorf, Mühlenbrink has been receiving a lot of acclaim, especially since his participation in the group show Hotel Kerberos (curated by Gertrud Peters), the opening show of the new museum Kunst Im Tunnel (KIT) in Düsseldorf. As in his previous series the human absence expressed through architecture is still prominent, but this time the desolateness gets a baroque interpretation, characterised within the form of an imploding or exploding contemplative cloud or glow. The reflections from the past are almost literally overgrown by an overall digesting agitation, bringing the ancient fight between colours and colour shapes back to life. The inner fight of people against uniformity seems to be taking place right at this moment. In the architecture itself we already find traces of this mental disorder: the surrealistic labyrinth of pillars in the triptych ´Notre Dame´, the distorted facade of the imploding ´Hochhaus´,….

The contrast between individualism and the ‘subversively’ floating strength of mass-culture in our Western society, is evoked by a cathedral (=religion), a shop chain (=consumption) and a building (=domicile). As such the inherent basic needs of each individual, as just one aspect of the survival of the fittest, threaten to degenerate into excess. A basic living space results in vacancy and decay (Hochhaus), spirits and food supplies effects food surpluses (Kaisers), and the urge to, whether or not, ‘alleged’ knowledge (`Notre Dame) marks belief crisis or - extremism. All this in spite of, or perhaps even thanks to, the enduring conflict between the individual instinct and mass culture. Although Mühlenbrinks illusory spaces seem less realistic than in his previous works, they remain reflections of the state of mind, including the absence of men themselves. The whole series no longer works on a purely perceptive level, but has elevated to a more eloquent and mental one. As in ‘Hochhaus, Verwundet’ (Wounded Highrise) the soothing geometrical rhythms are literally ripped open, visualizing an existential scream of fear indulging everything around; a crack that gives us a glimpse of our naked Being. The romanticized poetry has been replaced by a snapshot of a sharp, continuing dialogue between the unconscious and the conscious, appearance and being, light and shadow, outline and colour, life quality and quantity…. Mühlenbrink reverts to the fundaments of our civilisation by gradually questioning our traditions. He urges us to contemplate without giving a universal solution, as this fight has to remain inevitably undecided.

Mühlenbrinks characteristic light ballets and colour nuances, often dwelling in sunlight, are now replaced by indefinable painting clouds. They act as a dynamic element within the framework as well as a light source, capturing the viewers attention by its expressiveness. The large dimensions of the paintings and the format choice of diptych and triptych which references historical painting presentations, intensify the audiovisual impact on the affect. Mühlenbrink seems to use a dechristianized alternative for the traditional baroque language. Faced with a forest of columns in Notre Dame’, as if the Gothic cathedral has a weight to carry, the central structure guides the viewers gaze to the glowing heart of the work. Does this refer to the downfall or rise of the disbelievers, or the position of religion in general? In traditional triptychs the patron is commonly painted on the side compartment, whereas in this work we can distinguish a blue glow on the leftpanel’. The sumptuous religious interior contrasts strongly with the current status of the church in our secularised society.

In ‘Hochhaus’ a weird and wonderful effect is created by violating all laws of physics. The spiral dust cloud channels our gaze to the epicentre where the two parts of the diptych meet. It is not until now that we can grasp the impossibility of the scene. An implosion absorbs anything that is surrounded, releasing a power that overtakes the deformed, almost liquefied buildings. `Kaisers’, the name of a German food store appears as a symbol for our consumption society. It is not conducted by means of geometrical constructions, but starts from the central explosion within the, creating an almost abstract painting. The Kaisers-logo only unveils itself after a closer look, as if it is banished to the edge of the canvas by the centrifugal strength of the detonation.

Mühlenbrink succeeds in touching the inner of society by focusing on a representative, symbolically charged architectural construction that dissolves in a mysterious cloud. Capturing the viewer within the centre of the action it results in the impossibility to indicate the direction or duration of the happening. However, man is not longer a victim of his surroundings, but both cause and result. A never ceasing process of contemplation points out the responsibilities man ought to take up.

S. Van Laer

only in german

Jochen Mühlenbrink