By the Sea. Report from Marseille

For its first edition in 2007 the Art-o-Rama hosted only five galleries, under skeptical observations from the Paris art scene about the chances of a fair in a poor city like Marseille. Sixteen years later, the fair has become a significant end-of-summer event with an international program, and cooperation with other institutions in and beyond the Provence. Even Parisians leave their city to enjoy art ‘by the sea’ and see what France’s second city has to offer.

Read my impression from the Art-o-Rama fair here on the website of DAMN magazine.

Salt in the Wound. Encountering Contemporary Artists across Europe

Salt in the Wound takes the reader on a journey through Europe, to visit contemporary artists in the places where they live and work. The book looks into the relationship between the work of the artists and their environment. What are the differences in cultural climate between Tallinn and Thessaloniki, between London and Lisbon? Through studio visits, exhibition reviews and conversations, the author reflects on the imagination of leading European artists, and how it relates to both local histories and the global art practice.

The book contains essays on the work of Miroslaw Balka, Anton Henning, Flo Kasearu, Bernard Frize, Anish Kapoor, Michael Borremans. Lia Kazakou, Sejla Kameric, Norbert Bisky, Monika Sosnowska, Janis Avotins, Luc Tuymans , Paula Rego, Klaas Kloosterboer, Irina Botea , Bridget Riley, Marc Mulders , Sean Scully.

Published by Garret Publications, Helsinki, 2019.

Order the book online through Amazon (USA), through Walther König (Germany, Austria) through Abebooks (UK), through Suomalainen (Finland) or find it in selected bookstores and museum shops around the world:

Berlin (Uslar & Rai, Bücherbogen, St. George’s), New York (Mcnally Jackson, Printed Matter), Columbus Ohio (Wexner Center for the Arts), Bloomington Indiana (Friends of the Arts Bookshop), Los Angeles (Hennessy + Ingalls), Riga (Careva Gallery), Helsinki (Nide), Vienna (Walther König), Amsterdam (Athenaeum, Stedelijk Museum), Maastricht (Dominicanen) and others

Book sellers can order through Ideabooks, Amsterdam here



Taking Root in Düsseldorf

How do contemporary artists root themselves in a world full of conflicting interests and without clear direction?

This exhibition presents the work of eleven artists with an interest in cultural and natural origin, as a way to understand, imagine, and shape the present. In painting, film, drawing and sculpture they transform familiar landscapes, follow visual traces and delve into aspects of their respective biographies. The artists come from different corners of the European continent, plus one from the US.

A variety of attitudes is presented, yet the artists share receptiveness for the impermanent. Their works balance between a sense of wonder and melancholy. They have an interest in rooting themselves in the present through finding anchor points in tradition and their environment, and finding out what is valuable or inescapable for their work as artists in the early 21st century.

With Nikos Aslanidis, Maria Capelo, Béatrice Dreux, Eiko Gröschl, Nona Inescu, Ida Lindgren, Catherine Mulligan, Katrina Neiburga, Liesbeth Piena, Natascha Schmitten, Rubica von Streng.

Public Opening: 1 November 2019, 7 pm, KIT Düsseldorf

Curated by Jurriaan Benschop

Image: Rubica von Streng, Am I Elefant (detail), 2018, oil on canvas, 200 x 185 cm

The Things of the World are Rock – Maria Capelo

The publication ‘The Things of the World are Rock’ brings together recent drawings and paintings of Lisbon based artist Maria Capelo. They were shown in the Pavilhão Branco in Lisbon earlier this year. The title of the exhibition catalog is borrowed from words by Cesare Pavese. The artist shares with Pavese a deep interest in landscape, and in the traces of life and history that can be observed in nature.

I visited Capelo’s exhibition in Lisbon and wrote in response the essay ‘Rock Solid Vivid’ which was published in the catalog, along with texts by Tobi Maier and João Pinharanda. The book is published by the Galerias Municipais in Lisbon.

“All the drawings bring our attention to the surface of things, and show structure, strong contrast. They are refined, we see the thinnest of lines and folds, like in a hand palm. What the works share is a transformational unpredictability and suggestiveness. The depicted motifs seem to be willing to become something else. A tree is a bone. A branch is a leg. A bush is a vulva. Stepping into the work, causes a chain of associations. “My work has always that approach, of observing, contemplating and reorganizing what you can see.” Capelo remarked. So she makes landscapes – but she also makes something else.” (fragment from the essay ‘Rock Solid Vivid’)

Book Launch in Riga

On June 5th, 2019, Salt in the Wound was presented in the Latvian capital Riga with a talk and discussion at Careva Gallery. With this event the gallery launched its art book store in the city centre, at Kalku Iela 24.

One of the chapters of Salt in the Wound is conceived in Latvia, as I was a resident at the International Writers and Translators House in Ventspils. From there I started to explore the Latvian landscape, history and habits, and the cultural environment. The result can be read in ‘Notes from Latvia,’ which recalls, among others, a meeting with painter Janis Avotins in his studio in Riga.

“‘Art shouldn’t be sentimal,’ Avotins says – partly because we’re talking about the relationship between his work and the history of Latvia. The figures he paints are based on photographs from magazines of the Russian era. At his studio I see folders full of neatly ordered cuttings, all images from a time gone by, the time in which he was born. He is interested in the postures of the people in the photographs, not in the individuals themselves. Or, you could say, he looks at the way people are specifically not individuals.” (fragment from ‘Notes from Latvia’)

Come Close & Step Back

Pia Krajewski, Irina Ojova

Exhibition at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

Curated by Jurriaan Benschop
Opening 11 April 2019, 7 pm

This exhibition brings together the work of two painters who were selected for the 2019 Winsor & Newton Residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin: ​Pia Krajewski​ (Cologne, 1990) and ​Irina Ojovan​ (Chisinau, 1988).

While Pia Krajewski maximizes the presence of a figurative motif through monumental close-ups, Irina Ojovan seems interested in the opposite movement, reducing the clues that could identify the motifs underlying her paintings. What the artists share is an interest in taking images from the exterior world, isolating them, and transforming them into a reduced painterly vocabulary. To grasp the paintings in their full scope, the viewer has to move closer to and further from the canvases, collecting sensations of texture and touch from close by, or seeing the overall image from a more distant perspective.

Gerlind Zeilner in Thessaloniki

Gerlind Zeilner ‘Line of Thought’ exhibition at Donopoulos IFA, 2 Feb – 11 March, 2019, curated by Jurriaan Benschop

The paintings of Gerlind Zeilner are the result of both attentive observation and a vivid imagination. The Vienna based artist collects impressions from what she calls “the theatre of life” as she observes it in bars, on the streets in her hometown or outside in a mountain village. First she makes quick sketches of scenes; later in the studio, things start to change shape as the artist looks at them, and this transformation is intensified in her paintings.

The characteristic colorful lines in the paintings are not only there to indicate the shape of an object, a person, or building – they also act by themselves to transmit a variety of expressions, ranging from fragility and hesitation to firmness and wonder. As a whole, the paintings embody a sensibility and a way of looking, more than a specific scene.

Meeting with Rachel Whiteread

One of my highlights of 2018 was meeting with British artist Rachel Whiteread in Vienna to talk about her exhibition in Belvedere21. For her it was the first come back to the city after making the much discussed holocaust memorial.

There is something about plaster that is incredibly special. It is really ancient; it comes from rock that is turned to powder, you add water it becomes liquid, heats up and dries, and pours the surface away from the object you are casting from – every minute detail. It is almost like alchemy.”

The full interview was published in DAMN magazine and can be read online here

Exhibition ‘Content is a Glimpse’

‘Content is a Glimpse’ is an international painting exhibition presenting the work of five artists: Anna Tuori (Helsinki), David Schutter (Chicago), Fiona Rae (London), Jorge Queiroz (Lisbon), Mark Lammert (Berlin). Five artists with different backgrounds present works that imagine, form, and deform the human figure, or otherwise allude to the body. The image above shows a work from the ‘Walkers’ by Anna Tuori, of which there are three on display.

The exhibition borrows its title from the words of Willem de Kooning, who pointed to short moments of insight – each encounter like a flash – that can occur while looking at a painting. The figuration in de Kooning’s work is not something that can be pinned down as an objective fact, rather it resides and is hidden in painterly gestures, color marks, and abstraction. It comes and goes, it is part of the dynamics of perception. This quality can also be found in the works of the five artists participating in the exhibition.

Curated by Jurriaan Benschop

On display from 24 November 2018 till 9 February 2019

Catalog launch: 26 January, 4-6 pm, open event.

Efremidis Gallery, Ernst Reuter Platz 2, Berlin Charlottenburg.