Taking Root at KIT Düsseldorf

In a world full of conflicting interests and beliefs, how do artists root themselves? Where do they find their sense of direction? These questions underlie the exhibition Taking Root. The assumption is that the eleven artists presented here did find some roots. They have developed a clear and insistent focus in their practice, and that is what gives their work depth.

For a tree, life without roots is not possible. It needs a stronghold, right underneath, in order to grow and stay firm, to endure storm and thunder, and to maintain resilience. One can assume that similarly, human beings find some “nutrition” in the places where they grow up. Yet, those places are not the only ones where developing roots happens. Artists can pick their roots, collect them on their way through life, or search for them in places where they are not yet familiar. After all, humans are mobile beings. And for humans, roots are not just a matter of physical circumstances; they can reside in thoughts, memories, beliefs, and traditions.

Taking Root brings together the work of eleven artists. Some of these artists grew up close to nature; for others, the city has been their natural environment. Some of them are young artists, who in recent years have started their own studio practices. Others have been working for decades already, and have had more options to develop their roots. Together, the participants span two generations of contemporary artists. Most of them come from Europe, yet in terms of landscape and cultural climate, their backgrounds are diverse. One is from the USA, which is itself a country with roots in Europe. 

In times when God is declared dead, or has been hijacked by terrorists, when political leaders can be liars and fakes, the question is where to find understanding and beliefs, and additionally, where to find the confidence and context from which to act? The answer goes inside, into the imagination and reflection of the artists. And it leads into the traditions that have shaped them. These eleven artists have been selected for this show not necessarily because their work is about roots, or depicting it as a theme, but rather because their work has roots. The artists have been able to ground themselves in the present, and find a sense of direction through anchor points in nature, religion, art, or culture. They have developed an interest that brings their work into focus.

The artists in Taking Root do not usually find their artistic incentives in the daily news or in politics. Their knowledge is more indirect, coming from stones, stock photos, walks, landscapes, icons, paintings, plants, children – from all possible sources. There are many situations and observations that guide them. They do not preach or illustrate a particular belief. They make their work as artists, through searching and delving and developing their own discipline – that is enough of a statement. You can sense in their work that they know something.

Even though art is not necessarily sacred territory, it offers stretches of land where a different world is possible – not corrupted, and not adrift. It can offer an environment where you actually want to spend time, a place that is nurturing for the mind, body, and soul. The Kunst im Tunnel offers a good shelter, with solid walls, to create some distance to the physical and digital traffic around, to the hustle of city life, to the problems of our times. The generous tunnel space filled with the works of eleven contemporary artists allows a time out – and offers itself as a place to reconnect and take root.

KIT, Mannesmannufer 1, Düsseldorf, exhibition runs through 26 January 2020 and is open Tue-Sun 11 – 18 h

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.

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.