Aktuell (Juni)

Neues Deutschland. Review by Hannah Finlator

New series by Francis Gomila.

Lichtenberg Studios, exhibiton Cafe

April 21 to June 9. 2017

As many artists entrenched in digital media flounder in response to abrupt political shifts regarding the distribution and value of information accessible to the public, Gomila turns his practice toward the painterly. Amidst the sudden rise of neofascist ideology across The West, the Gibraltar-born British artist living in Berlin, tenaciously blends artefacts from 1980s East Germany with a rough and fervent aesthetic stirring multi-layered implications.

Ever present in Gomila’s oeuvre is the scrutiny of the observable world. While Neues Deutschland works are based on found imagery, the series is an atypical development for an artist who, since his early works as a painter, has rarely delved into history or personal biography. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of these new works is the subtle emergence of these aspects.

Following the restoration of his studio in a former East German village, Gomila reclaimed newspaper pages from Neues Deutschland, (1946-1989), used by previous owners as insulation under the linoleum floor. Initially fascinated by the optics of communist ideology, Gomila writes:

1. Politburo conferences, trade union meetings, heroic workers with farm machinery, livestock breeders, art competition, and beauty pageants winners are all photographed in a poised fashion that belies the innocence, pride, and naive seriousness on their faces.

Citing the idiom, swept under the carpetwith semi indifference, Gomila might have given half a heart to the lost innocence reflected in faces captured by the newspapers, but with the neutrality of experimentation, he then reprinted excerpts from the pages and smeared industrial bitumen onto the prints, which chemically altered them creating a highly toxic looking surface.

In one work Gomila added feathers to the bitumen layer. Reference to the ancient practice of public punishment via tarring and feathering is striking. If one isn’t simply distracted by the haunting anti-beauty beauty of the imagery, (rich in blackest blacks, figures barely discernible), one might begin to ask questions about the context and relevance alluding to this type of mob-law shaming, which was specifically intended to elicit public humiliation. However, first, the viewer must search beyond the cast of his own reflection eclipsing the portraits below.

Fast-forward to the Age of Information, Gomila’s ghostly lost-and-found reprints have been sentenced to both historical irrelevancy and artistic arbitration, resulting in works containing provocative irony: the artist recovers buried portraits to then (re)cover them, then further obscures the surviving imagery with eccentric surface manipulation creating a seductive yet eluding final effect.

The direct artistic intention is a little baffling. But, after some reflection, if in the current world context, ambiguity of source, clarity of truth, infiltration of nonsense infotainment- or absence of reality altogether- coming out of our media portals is at the forefront of our concerns, perhaps the viewer won’t look past the artist’s glaring pictorial black mirror.

Suspended between foundation and floorboards, is there another mirror, a possible biographical element to these works? Probably- after all, everyone who settles abroad faces cultural identity challenges existing between two worlds. They are also more likely to become especially sensitive to jingoistic language, language that historically precedes and facilitates far-right politics, such as the ones referenced within these works.

Thoughts are free and pass like shadows in the night.* Gomila, entering one of the more complex phases in his career, briefly turns away from the editing screen which has underpinned the last decades of his work, for a time of displacement, solitude, and reflection- blended, dark, and radically free.

*“Die Gedanken sind frei” 1780, German folk song.

Review by Hannah Finlator. Artist, art historian and author.

April, 2017

Aktuell (April)

Mittwoch, 12. April um 19 Uhr

Suresh Kumar G.

Vortrag und Diskussion zu seinen Arbeiten.

Suresh Kumar G. wohnt im April in den Lichtenberg Studios und erkundet den Bezirk.

Der Großvater verwendete sein Fahrrad, um zwei große Milchkannen zu transportieren, in denen er die von den Landwirten in den nahe gelegenen Dörfern am Rande der Stadt gesammelte Milch jeden Morgen nach Bangalore brachte um sie zu verkaufen. Dies war die Zeit bevor die moderne Nandini-Molkerei mit europäischen Kühen in der Stadt eingeführt wurde (die Holstein-Kuh ist immer noch ein Teil des Nandini-Molkerei Logos). Als Kind begleitete Suresh seinen Großvater manchmal auf seinen Milchrunden, an der modernen Molkerei mit den Zementkühen vorbei, die die Milchmänner aus dem Dorf mit Bewunderung betrachteten, die aber zugleich Vorboten der Konsequenzen der Moderne für die Dorfbewohner bedeutete. Anders als das Fahrrad, ein fremdes Objekt, das die Dorfbewohner faszinierte, als sie es zuerst im Roman von Kuvmepu sahen, waren die bekannten und gemeinen Kühe aus Zement unheilverkündend. Die Skulpturen belebten die Erzählungsthemen von Indiens erster Moderne: Stadt und Dorf, Landwirtschaft und Industrie, die Alten und die Neuen, die in Harmonie zusammenarbeiten, um ein neues Indien zu bauen.

In den fünfunddreißig Jahren, seit er zum ersten Mal die Skulptur vor der modernen Molkerei sah, hat sich Bangalore-Stadt verändert. Es wurde in den Wirren einer zweiten Welle der Moderne als Neomoderne-Wesen auf den Ruinen des ersten errichtet: Die Erzählungen der Neo-Moderne, der Wert, unter Ausschluss aller anderen Dinge, der Marktfundamentalismus als Lösung für alle Probleme. Der Verkauf wurde dekorativ als „Unternehmergeist“ gepriesen, als Tugend verstanden, Technologie als „Ideologie“. Sureshs Werk dekonstruiert die Erzählthemen der ersten Moderne Indiens und die der zweiten, die die Brüche und Diskontinuitäten zwischen den Versprechungen und der Wirklichkeit enthüllen.“ (Pithamber R. Polsani, 2016)

April, 2017